For the first two and a half years after he left Chelsea, few cared too much about Mohamed Salah, who managed a rather unimpressive and unsuccessful twelve months at the Bridge — a flop, some might even say. Our main concern when he was at Fiorentina (on loan) and then AS Roma was all the transfer drama, which dragged on for years in various European courts.
Then last year Salah landed at Liverpool and exploded with 44 goals. Suddenly, everyone was very interested in Salah. And the obvious question was, if he can do it at Liverpool, why couldn’t he do it at Chelsea?
This has been answered many times by all those involved, including Salah himself, Jürgen Klopp, his current manager, José Mourinho, then Chelsea manager, and even Eden Hazard, good friend. The consensus is basically that it was too much too soon for the kid, though it probably didn’t help that he had Mourinho for a Chelsea manager.
On Sunday, Salah faces Mourinho again as United take-on Liverpool at Anfield, so of course the old wounds had to be poked at. Mourinho responded with his usual explanation, while hailing Salah’s development over the last five years.
“I think he developed incredibly well at every level. Physically, amazing development. He was a fast, fragile boy and now he is a fast, strong man. He was psychologically not adapted, coming direct from a small club in Switzerland to a big club in England, and in the Premier League it was too much.
“I remember I played him at White Hart Lane and at the Etihad and was too much for him. Now he plays everywhere, against any team. Can go to Barcelona, can go to Madrid, he plays like, ‘I am Mo Salah and I am afraid of no one and nobody’.
”He’s a fantastic player, completely different from the potential player we brought from Basel to Chelsea. Was a project of player and now he is one of the best players in the world. I know a project of player and now he is a top player.”
-José Mourinho; source: M.E.N.
Chelsea signed Salah as a 21-year-old from Basel in January of 2014. He appeared in all eight of Chelsea’s final Premier League games of the season, scoring twice, assisting twice.
But Mourinho was not convinced. Salah was relegated to the bench as Chelsea began a waltz to the league title, then loaned to Fiorentina and chalked up as another player who was sacrificed to Chelsea’s ruthless need to win now (which we did), not later (which we also did).
As it turns out, Serie A was the perfect place for Salah to grow. Had he stayed at Chelsea, he might never have become the player he is today. Such are the vagaries of professional football.