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02 March 2024

Salah's form leaves Egypt's pundits looking for explanations


In trying to understand Mohamed Salah's disappointing form so far this season, Egyptian sports pundits are coming up with explanations that range from the rational to the outlandish.

Salah's form is dominating conversation - and concern - among sports commentators, reflecting the love Egyptians have for a native son who scored 44 goals in his first season for Liverpool, including 32 in the Premier League.

"Salah must not look back at last season, whether it's his goal scoring or his exceptional form," said Islam el-Shater in Cairo's independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper. "What he must do is to do what his coach (Juergen Klopp) asks of him so he does not lose his starting place."

El-Shater also said that it was not uncommon for star strikers to go through occasional goal droughts.
But some observers have another worry over the 26-year-old star, who has scored 39 goals in 60 games for Egypt.

"That (smile) is missing since the start of this season because of the pressure he is under" to score in every game, top soccer commentator Hassan el-Mistekawi wrote last week in the independent al-Shorouk newspaper

Ironically, speculation about Salah's form coincides with Liverpool's perfect start to the season in the Premier League with six straight wins.

"Whether it is him or the fans, Salah is being compared to (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi and perhaps he began to believe that he can score 40-50 goals every season," wrote Mohammed el-Bourmy in Al-Masry Al-Youm.

"He is not required to do this, but rather to have a good season with, say, 20 goals to his name, and enjoy himself because Liverpool this year is a better team than last year."

It is too early to say whether Salah's third goal of the season, against Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday, signals a return to form.

According to one theory making the rounds, Salah has been deeply distracted by his on-off dispute with the national soccer federation though he appeared happier in the Southampton game.

Recalling the popular and political pressure that forced the federation to back down in its standoff with Salah over his image rights and improved discipline at the Pharaohs' camps, Abdou Mubasher of the state-run Al-Ahram daily claimed the federation was now out to get the Liverpool star.

"They did not and will never forget," he wrote. "They began to behave like they are seeking revenge."

Another theory goes even further and claims that Senegal's Sadio Mane, Salah's fellow Liverpool striker, was starving the Egyptian of scoring chances out of jealousy.

"Mane is thinking of Salah's last season stats and is trying to push Salah out of the picture," said Karim Said, editor of YallaKora, a popular online sports website.