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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is certain Mohamed Salah’s peak years will extend into his mid-30s as he reiterated his confidence the Anfield contract saga will be successfully resolved.
Salah raised more questions about his long-term future in an interview earlier this week, suggesting his wage demands are not ‘crazy’.
Ahead of Thursday’s Carabao Cup semi-final, first leg with Arsenal, Klopp said he was positive that Salah will eventually extend his terms.
“First of all, nowadays I think it’s really dangerous to talk about interviews when you didn’t speak to the player yourself,” said Klopp.
“There was nothing in it that would be unexpected. We know, I know, that Mo wants to stay. We want him to stay. That’s the point where we are. These things take time, I can’t change that, sorry. But I think it is all in a good place.
“I am very positive about it. I’m pretty sure the fans are not as nervous as you (the media) are! They know the club, know the people here who are dealing with things, so there are, I think, enough reasons for being pretty positive. As long as it’s not done, we cannot say anything about it. ‘Good conversations’ - that’s what I could say.”
Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, have critical decisions to make on the contracts of Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, whose deals all run until the summer of 2023. That has been the background to prolonged negotiations for a board which is determined the club must live within its means with transfer fees and salaries.
The fact Salah turns 30 in June would ordinarily be a key factor in talks, too. There is a recent history in the Premier League of superstar players being handed their most lavish deals just as their peak years are over, and subsequently becoming a financial burden.
It is understood the Egyptian is hoping to be paid in the region of £400,000 a week, similar to Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne.
But Salah’s case for a new deal was assisted by his manager emphatically backing the opinion his striker will mirror Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, whose productivity has been of an elite standard throughout their 30s.
“Yes. Yes, I think so. It's his character, his determination, the way he trains, his attitude, work-rate. It's incredible,” said Klopp.
“He is the first in, last out, doing the right stuff. You can do some not-so-good things when you spend so long in the gym and the training ground, but he knows his body, he knows what to do. He listens to the experts here and tries to improve all the time. He tries to improve for the situation he is in now, and he will not waste it by doing less. I am as convinced as you can be.”
Pressed on why there has been such a delay finding common ground, Klopp added: “Things take time. There are so many things you have to do, and by the way there is a third party. The agent is there as well. But there’s nothing to worry about, it’s a normal process. Mo has a contract here this season and next season. Nobody has to worry, it’s just the situation. All fine, not done, but we had talks. He’s a world class player, unbelievable player, did a lot of great stuff for Liverpool. Of course we want to keep him, and let’s see how it will work out.”
Salah had put pressure on Liverpool to accept his contract demands by insisting is not asking for “crazy stuff” - but he does want a salary increase to reflect his achievements at Anfield.
“I want to stay, but it's not in my hands. It's in their hands,” Salah told GQ Global Sports Issue. “They know what I want. I'm not asking for crazy stuff.
“The thing is when you ask for something and then they show you they can give you something because they appreciate what you did for the club. I've been here for my fifth year now. I know the club very well. I love the fans. The fans love me. But with the administration, they have [been] told the situation. It's in their hands.”
Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool's owners, must weigh up the value of handing a lucrative contract to a player who turns 30 at the end of the current campaign. They will also be aware that the usual options in the transfer market for a high-profile player have changed in recent windows.
Salah has previously spoken to Spanish outlet Marca about his future, although Real Madrid appear focused on Kylian Mbappe as their next marquee signing and Barcelona have suffered financial problems that saw Messi leave last summer. Paris St-Germain would be one of the only other realistic alternative outside England.
Salah is among a clutch of players whose deals expire in 2023, meaning in one year they will be able to speak to clubs about a pre-contract to move as a free agent. Raheem Sterling at Manchester City is in the same position.
Salah is currently away on duty with Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations and has made the three-man shortlist, along with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski and PSG's Lionel Messi, for Fifa's Best Men's Player of 2021.
"If you asked me if this was a drive for me to be here? Yeah, of course," he said, when asked about his ambition to win the Ballon D’Or. "I can't really lie and say honestly I didn't think about it. No, I think about it. I want to be the best player in the world. But I will have a good life even if I don't win. My life is OK, everything is fine."
The GQ Global Sports Issue is available on newsstands and via digital download on Jan 25