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Chelsea flop Mo Salah returns to England twice as good and three times as expensive

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Swansea City v Chelsea - Premier League
A murmuring of flops
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Depending on your perspective, Liverpool dropping upwards of £35m on Mo Salah is either another tragic indictment of Chelsea’s transfer policy — WHY DO THEY ALWAYS GET BETTER WHEN THEY LEAVE?! — a hilarious waste of money — remember when Chelsea beat Liverpool to Salah’s signature for just £11m? — a fantastic signing — 29 goals in 65 Serie A games for Roma! — or something in-between all the hot takes that we won’t really be able to judge until he actually plays at least a few games for Liverpool. Which, as many will point out is something he didn’t really get to do while at Chelsea. It’s always tougher for January signings.

Salah’s twelve months at Stamford Bridge were highlighted by a great goal against Arsenal and one of the worst shots you have ever seen. As in the preceding paragraph, the reality of his situation was somewhere between those two extremes, but like a few other recent signings, most notably fellow Serie A standout Juan Cuadrado, it just simply didn’t quite click for him at Chelsea. Salah himself recognizes this and knows that despite his successes with Roma, he does have a point to prove in England.

“100 per cent, yes, [I come back a better player]! Everything [has improved]. Even my personality was different, I was a kid — I was 20 or 21. Now I’m four years older, everything is different. I have lots of experience in three clubs: I was at Chelsea, then Fiorentina and then Roma. I have good experience.”

“Yes, always [I have a point to prove]. Even if I see myself playing very well in one thing, I try to improve to do it better and better. I always think about the small details because I need to improve more and more.”

-Mohamed Salah; source: Liverpool FC

At Chelsea, Salah was known for his blazing speed and his decent finishing ability. And for not being too well liked by José Mourinho. “Come back in pre-season ready to be a footballer” was reportedly what he told a fresh-faced Salah during one fateful half-time “bust-up” and subsequent substitution. He made only three appearances in the league the following season before getting heave-ho in early 2015. His last two Chelsea appearances were in the 5-3 defeat to Spurs on New Year’s Day and the 4-2 home loss to Bradford City in the FA Cup. Talk about going out on a low-note.

And still, the drama was just starting. Six months at Fiorentina followed, then a 12-month dispute with Chelsea and Roma and FIFA over clauses and compensation that could fill pages on its own — incidentally, Fiorentina were wanting €30m in development fees at one point, which we all thought was supremely laughable, yet look at his transfer fee now! The Salah-days of Our Lives eventually culminated in a €20m move to Roma (€5m loan fee + €15m buy-option), with Chelsea turning a decent profit on a useless squad player that has now actually been made even better with a reported 10 per cent cut of the profits that Roma just turned on what could be Liverpool’s record signing. Depending on final transfer fees, Chelsea could earn as much as €3m extra. Sure, that’s nothing by itself these days, but it does add up.

Salah’s rise at Roma does validate some of Chelsea’s scouting back in 2013-14. And even though his departure was understandable considering he was just about last choice behind the likes of Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Schürrle, and even Ramires, that will be of little comfort if he lights up the Premier League as well. If Salah can reproduce his Serie A form in the Premier League, Liverpool have just signed another Alexis Sánchez or another Philippe Coutinho. If they didn’t already, they now definitely possess the fastest attack in the league. That sounds dangerous for the rest us.