We’ve talked ad nauseam about Mohamed Salah, Chelsea, and José Mourinho over the past four years, and the one thing we most certainly learned is that no one cares about players who didn’t get better after they left — your André Schürrles, your Oscars, your Ramireses, your David Luizes, your Fernando Torreses, even your Juan Matas.
But the players who did, well woe be to any and all involved who could not foretell four years ago that Mo Salah had a 40-goal season in him. Which is basically everyone. Not many were predicting that for him twelve months ago, let alone when he was suiting up however rarely for Chelsea in 2014. Other players who “got away” were more nailed-on choices for big things ahead — Lukaku, De Bruyne, to name the two obvious ones — Salah was more noted for simply being very fast and taking one of most hilarious shots in recent memory, against lowly
Strawberry Shrewsbury Town in the League Cup.
“It’s not getting any better, is it?” says the commentator in that clip, accurately summing up Salah’s previous ten months at the club, at the beginning of which Mourinho made it clear that there was a lot the 21-year-old had to prove.
“You know, playing at Stamford Bridge is not the same as playing for FC Basel.”
”With Basel you play to you enjoy your time and you have nothing to lose. While in the blue shirt, you have 40,000 people that you are required to please. Everyone wants you to be decisive, all the time.”
”So I think Mohamed needs six months to adapt our game and the demands of the Premier League. I am calm and I’m telling him that he has time because we have confidence in him. I think next season is Mohamed Salah’s break-through season.”
-Mourinho; February 2014
Is it any wonder he didn’t play as much as his current goals totals would dictate … as if future performance could somehow dictate past returns? You might say judging that future is actually one of the jobs of the manager, and while you may be correct, giving developmental minutes is not ever his primary job. His primary job is winning. Mourinho, then Chelsea manager, will be one of the firsts to tell you that.
Salah would play in just two more games for Chelsea after that Shrewsbury shot, as a late substitute in the 5-3 defeat at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day 2015 and a start in the 4-2 shock (mercifully untelevised) defeat at home against Bradford City in the FA Cup three weeks later. A little over a month after that, he will have scored three times in his first four games for Fiorentina on loan, and the rest, as they say, was history (filled with glorious transfer drama, too, that’s largely forgotten now).
Chelsea did get one last chance at him that summer, but Mourinho made it clear what he thought of Salah’s future.
“I have five wingers, if I lose one maybe I am interested in another but at this moment I have balance and quality and numbers.”
“[But Salah,] I see his future elsewhere. Either on loan or sold with an offer we are happy to accept. We have five wingers and it is better not to have Salah back.”
-José Mourinho; July 2015
That Salah is now setting the Premier League and the Champions League on fire is rather unfortunate for those who made decisions at Chelsea back in 2014 and 2015, even if the idea that the player would’ve developed exactly into the player he is today (and, quite importantly, has been unlocked under Klopp) is a bit of a fallacy. In fact, Klopp himself talked about this after their 5-2 Champions League semifinal first leg win over AS Roma.
“He was a kid when he came to Chelsea. And Chelsea had a squad that was unbelievable so it was really difficult. Kevin de Bruyne didn’t play in that squad, that’s a lot.
“I think we all agree Jose Mourinho is a fantastic manager so sometimes things are like that.”
And that’s a reasonable and fairly accurate assessment of the situation, though many would disagree with Klopp in his kind word for José in this regard.
Still, decisions were made, things happened, we apportion blame if we so choose, maybe we take responsibility, perhaps we learn something, and we move on. We wish good things for Salah individually, bad things for Liverpool as a whole and we look to not repeat the same errors.
And if that’s where this ended, we would be back in the same place we’ve been for the past four years, arguing in circles, pointing fingers, cursing our luck and those who made the decisions — which, as usual, weren’t all made by just one person. Blame can be freely apportioned in whatever measure on Mourinho, the Board, Salah himself, and anyone else we care to include.
But that unsatisfying grey area is not where this ends. José Mourinho is here to absolve himself of blame once again.
“I think everything has surprised even him. It has been fantastic. But he is a great player that has reached the peak of maturity, he has already lived several other experiences and now has fitted perfectly into the style of play of the team, of the coach and of the club as well. So it doesn’t surprise me that much.”
“It is the first time that I am going to say this, but it is another injustice that has been talked about me.”
“People say that I was the one that sold Salah and it is the opposite.
”I bought Salah.
”It is the opposite. I was the one that bought Salah. I was the one that told Chelsea to buy Salah. It was with me in charge that Salah came to Chelsea. But he came as a young kid, physically he was not ready, mentally he was not ready, socially and culturally he was lost and everything was tough for him.
”We decided to put him on loan and he asked for that as well. He wanted to play more minutes, to mature, he wanted to go and we sent him on loan to Fiorentina, and at Fiorentina he started to mature.
”Chelsea decided to sell him, OK?
”And when they say that I was the one that sold him it is a lie. I bought him. I agreed to send him on loan, I thought it was necessary, I thought that Chelsea had wingers... Some of them are still there like Willian, [Eden] Hazard and all those players already in a different level.
”So the decision to send him on loan was a decision we made collectively, but after that, the decision to sell him and to use that money to buy another player wasn’t mine. But even if it was, in football we make mistakes a lot of times, so many times some players develop in way we were not expecting, some other don’t reach another level like we thought they would, so I don’t even think this is a mistake, it is just part of the job.
”But effectively I did buy Salah, I didn’t sell Salah, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he is a fantastic player, and I am really happy for everything that is happening for him and especially because he scores against everyone and he didn’t score against us in two games.”
Mourinho is technically correct of course.
He didn’t actually press the button.
He just armed the missile, set the firing angle, flooded the tubes, and gave the green light.
(Which, as he and Klopp both say, happens. Mistakes are made. Everyone makes mistakes. But this is just silly egotism and petulance from Mourinho.)
(Mourinho’s claim that he pushed for Salah in the first place is a bit odd as well, especially in light of his quote above about needing six months to settle and the fact the he basically admitted Salah was a panic buy without barely even knowing who the agent responsible was.)
In lieu of a coherent conclusion, here’s Salah’s goal for Chelsea against Arsenal. He points to Mourinho because José told him he would score against the already long-vanquished 10-man Gunners.