He knows the numbers. He actively guns for records. Mohamed Salah’s dedication to his craft stretches past muddling defenders, creating space and opportunities for his teammates, or maintaining a supreme physical condition and replicating the zeal seen in match situations on the training pitches.
The Egypt international is studious, regularly seeking out information on his stats, but also those of attackers past and present. It is a means to mark himself against the very best, a measure to make sure he is never comfortable with what he has already achieved.
Salah’s appetite for advancement and craving to be regarded as one of the greatest players of all time has fed his sheer consistency. He is four goals shy of smashing in a century for Liverpool in the Premier League, having made only 146 appearances, putting his strike rate on par with the legendary Roger Hunt, who did some of his damage in the old second division.
Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler, Billy Liddell – none of those titans come close.
In the modern era, Salah’s top-flight goal ratio sits in the company of Thierry Henry, Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane – all while operating as a right forward as opposed to being his club’s main striker.
The 29-year-old has directly contributed a staggering 171 goals in 204 outings for Liverpool in total – a figure more mind-bending when you consider the times the scoreboard has ticked over because defenders were drawn to him, leaving room for teammates to profit.
Yes, it is no secret: Salah is exceptionally brilliant at doing the hardest thing in football. So brilliant, in fact, that he has transformed extraordinary into the norm which has meant a depreciation in the adulation and recognition he merits.
Not at Liverpool. Salah is king at Kirkby and Anfield, his status reflected by the club drafting the most lucrative deal in their history as discussions continue over a contract extension.
There is calm about the situation: his current terms only run out in 2023. Salah is happy, in typically remarkable condition and, Liverpool sources say, more fuelled than ever to fire through the division’s defences.
But the player’s agent, Ramy Abbas, has a habit of reminding the hierarchy of his client’s worth when that is far from necessary. It is, of course, his duty to seek the maximum for a prized asset.
Last weekend, Salah’s stunner of a showing against Norwich drew a “I hope they’re watching” tweet from Abbas; a hardly disguised message to Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group.
In seasons past, the soft threats would materialise in other forms. Salah’s media work – limited to minimal contractual obligations by request, much less than the rest of Liverpool’s senior players – would externally extend to exclusive interviews with major Spanish and French publications.
This was to smooth the path to an eventual mega move, but also to twist the negotiating arm of the Merseysiders.
There had been designs on the left-footed phenom becoming the main man at Real Madrid in the post-Cristiano era, but the Spaniards expensively plumped for Eden Hazard.
The idea that the Bernabeu or Barcelona could be Salah’s next destination has previously been weaponised, but the bullets are now shot. The Catalans are £1.15bn in debt and could only register their new signings due to Gerard Pique taking a substantial pay cut. They could not afford to keep the greatest player of this generation and are in no position to be thinking of further breaking the bank on someone of Salah’s age, profile and cost in the near future.
Last summer, Real did not make any signings for the first time since 1980. In the current window, their only new recruit is David Alaba – signed on a free to replace Sergio Ramos. Florentino Perez’s desperation to lift the Super League off its death bed speaks volumes on the financial disaster of La Liga’s big two.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Qatar-powered pockets are never empty, but they have made Leo Messi front and centre of their project, sandwiched by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Even if the latter does not sign a new contract and exits, PSG have many other shiny objects they are coveting, Paul Pogba for one.
The monetary muscle is largely in England where Manchester City, Chelsea and, to a lesser extent than those two, Manchester United have the means to lure headliners on head-spinning sums.
The pool of options for high-end talents is fast shrinking.
Liverpool will generate the most formidable package, within their structure, to reward Salah. The initial figure might not stack up to the £385,000 Kevin De Bruyne earns a week, nor David de Gea’s £375,000, but he can become the best-paid player in the club’s history, and beyond that, an all-time great at a storied institution.
The Egyptian – his availability as impressive as his sheer potency in front of goal – deserves to earn handsomely. He also warrants a legacy that stacks up to his landmark feats since making the switch to Anfield from Roma in 2017.
There is no reason those worlds can’t happily collide at Liverpool, where Salah has discovered the full extent of his powers.