Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler is convinced that Mo Salah’s annus mirabilis in his debut season at Anfield was no one-off.
The Egyptian international was the most talked-about player in the Premier League last season, scoring 44 goals in all competitions and picking up multiple awards from his fellow players, the media, and fans.
Despite a previous underwhelming spell in England with Chelsea, and later a more productive time with Roma, there was still something of the unknown quantity about Salah when he arrived on Merseyside in June of last year.
But that will most certainly not be the case when he kicks off the new season with Liverpool next weekend.
But Fowler, himself a serial goalscorer when he wore the famous red shirt, has no doubt that Salah will be able to cope with the weight of pressure and sense of expectation which is bound to surround his every move this season.
“Last year he was just phenomenal,” said Fowler in Dublin yesterday, speaking ahead of today’s friendly between Liverpool and Napoli at the Aviva Stadium.
“This year is going to be harder: defenders, other teams, other managers’ tactics will be all trying to stop him. But I’ve no doubt he is a good enough player to deal with that.”
Drawing on the experience of having to follow up his own breakthrough season at Anfield in the 90s, Fowler said:
It’s not something I ever thought about. You don’t think, ‘I’ve got to up my game here to cope with other teams’, you up your game because you’re a good player anyway.
“I always get asked who was my hardest opponent and I never have an answer because I was more focused on what I could do than what anyone else could do to me. I think Mo is similar.
"And I also thought, last season, the longer it went on, the better he got, the more comfortable and composed he looked. That’s what happens with good players.”
Unfortunately, Salah’s otherwise memorable season ended in crushing anti-climax with a shoulder injury in Liverpool’s Champions League final defeat against Real Madrid carrying over into what was a disappointing World Cup for Egypt.
“People say he had a bad World Cup but he scored two goals for a team who struggled,” Fowler said.
“As much as he might not have been 100% fit, I wouldn’t go down the road of saying he had a bad World Cup. But I think Mo is a level-headed lad.
"And as much as the season did end in disappointment — you could see the devastation on his face when he went off in the Champions League final and the pressure on him with Egypt was immense — the type of character he is, I don’t think it’s ever about him.
“Any time you hear him interviewed, it’s never ‘I’ or ‘me’ it’s ‘we’ and ‘us’.” He’s a phenomenal team player.”
Liverpool and Napoli face off in a pre-season friendly in Dublin today, kick off at the Aviva Stadium at 6pm.