Mohamed Salah and Liverpool face 'nightmare' regarding his future - even if he signs new contract

Mohamed Salah remains out of contract next summer, with his future at Liverpool uncertain as a result.

But should he agree new terms with the Reds, he could still hand them an unwanted ‘nightmare’ - albeit only inadvertently.

The forward has frequently found himself caught in the middle of a club vs country tug-of-war during his Anfield career, and is set to be again this summer with Egypt wanting to call him up as an overage player for the Paris Olympic Games. If selected, the 31-year-old would miss a significant period of Arne Slot’s first pre-season as Liverpool’s new head coach.

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Egypt had also wanted to call up Salah for the delayed 2020 Olympic Games, which took place in July and August 2021 in Tokyo, only for such a request to be rejected. With the Reds not required to release the forward, they could well block any call-up again.

However, they don’t hold the same power when it comes to the Africa Cup of Nations, with Salah missing six matches in 2021/22 as a result of such exploits as Egypt reached the final, and a further five in January 2024 as a hamstring injury ended up extending his absence to eight matches.

The Egyptian FA would clash with Liverpool after they recalled Salah to receive treatment back at the AXA Training Centre, with a view to releasing him if the Pharaohs progressed to the latter stages of the tournament. Yet after an early elimination, he ended up suffering a recurrence of the setback on his comeback away at Brentford, and would then be sidelined for a further four games anyway.

After returning from both tournaments, Salah struggled for form in both 2022 and 2024.

While enjoying a 31-goal campaign in 2021/22, he only scored five non-penalty goals from 25 appearances following AFCON. Meanwhile, netting 25 goals in 2023/24, again only five non-penalty goals came from his 17 appearances after the continental tournament.

That latest loss of form might have been accompanied by mitigating circumstances, given his hamstring injury, but such a lay-off also presented further questions regarding Salah’s long-term future. Was the forward just suffering a blip, or actually navigating the start of natural decline?

Liverpool will get answers either way this summer under Slot, with the Egyptian already hinting that he intends to remain with the Reds next season regardless of what happens with his expiring contract.

“We know that trophies are what count and we will do everything possible to make that happen next season,” he wrote on social media last month. “Our fans deserve it and we will fight like hell.”

Liverpool will inevitably hope that Salah returns to form under their new Dutch head coach. If so the Egyptian will make a mockery of any questions regarding his future and whether he should be offered a new contract.

But if he does sign a new deal, the Reds would potentially be heading for another Africa Cup of Nations mid-season headache.

The 2025 edition of the tournament will take place in Morocco, but dates have not yet been confirmed. With FIFA’s new Club World Cup taking place next June and July, the general secretary of the Confederation of African Football, Veron Mosengo-Omba, has admitted the finals might have to be pushed back until January 2026 as he bemoaned a ‘scheduling nightmare’.

“For the men, we need to make sure that the dates that we'll be choosing will be in the interests of the players,” he told BBC Sport Africa. “For this we need to balance different aspects and also discuss with our partners and then we complete [the dates]. Scheduling is a nightmare for everybody.”

Salah will be 33 when the next Africa Cup of Nations finals take place, be it summer 2025 or winter 2026. But the latter would ensure that he would again miss mid-season matches for Liverpool if he signed an extension.

It is perhaps something the Reds will need to consider when weighing up the Egyptian’s future, especially given his fortunes in the aftermath of both previous mid-season editions of the tournament.

And while it won’t have a decisive say on whether Salah remains a Liverpool player or not, it does raise another issue regarding the Reds’ Egyptian King. Sooner or later, his game-time will have to be managed.

He remains one of the first names on the teamsheet for club and country, rarely missing a game, with his hamstring injury this season prompting increased attention as a result of its rarity. But if Liverpool and Egypt wish to enjoy a fit and firing Salah at the peak of his powers for as long as possible, he cannot continue at such a pace forever.