Liverpool’s first attempts at signing their new £34.2 million man came way back in January 2014, when then-manager Brendan Rodgers’ team was only just beginning to go on their incredible title-challenging run.
The now Celtic boss recognised, whether rightly or not, that he needed one more attacker to complement his ranks. A devastating Luis Suarez, a fit Daniel Sturridge, rising stars Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho were doing exceptionally well for the Reds up front.
But beyond that was a surprisingly weak bench. Iago Aspas wasn’t the new Michu, on-loan Chelsea man Victor Moses hadn’t realise yet that he was better as a wing-back than as a winger, while Luis Alberto was still mentally stuck in La Liga 2.
Rodgers identified then-Basel winger Mohamed Salah as the man to add real depth to his current ranks and do what the likes of Moses and Aspas couldn’t – provide pace and quality support for the likes of Suarez and Sterling.
A £11 million deal looked imminent, before Chelsea’s then-boss Jose Mourinho snooped in and sealed the deal ahead of the Reds – even though he was well-stocked with wingers and had no immediate need for another.
Fast forward a couple of months later, the breakdown in the Salah deal looked immaterial as the Reds went on their long unbeaten run. That was, until a depleted Chelsea side arrived at Anfield.
Against what was Mourinho’s second string that included rookie defender Tomas Kalas and experienced back-up goalie Mark Schwarzer also saw Salah feature.
A back-up for Mourinho lining up against a seemingly unstoppable Red Army, Salah and the rest of the Chelsea team stuck to their boss’s infamous bus parking plans and stole all three points with goals at the end of both halves, ending Reds captain Steven Gerrard’s dream of winning a Premier League medal.
Ironically, had Liverpool manage to complete the signing of Salah, the Egyptian winger might have been the difference Rodgers was looking for from his bench. He had little choice but to send on Aspas and then witness the worst corner in the history of football.
Fast forward to January 2017, this time the Reds had a genuine need for another attacker. A quick one who played wide forward too, seeing as they could not seem to win a game without Sadio Mané.
There was no reported interest in Salah six months ago. Most talk was on German wingers Julian Draxler, before he moved to PSG, or Julian Brandt. Could Jurgen Klopp had just decided to go for Salah there and then?
£34 million (plus add-ons) surely would have at least forced Roma to consider selling. Who knows? Liverpool might have bid for Salah back in January, but with a press department seemingly as incompetent as the transfer dealers at the club, it was likely any Salah bid would’ve been known.
Even as the January window is generally known to have inflated prices and overvalued players, it could’ve been possible that Salah might’ve cost lesser, or closer to his true market value, say above £25 million.
The Reds could’ve landed the Egyptian for cheaper, and possibly have made a bigger impact in the title race, or overcame Southampton in the League Cup semis, or gone slightly further than they did in the FA Cup.
Of course, all this is conjecture, and the signing of Salah is great for Liverpool. As many have noted, his signing alone addressed several problems areas within Liverpool – the need for more left-footers, the need for more genuine pace in wide, attacking areas, the need for more experienced options up front.
However, how much better would it have been had the Reds acted more decisively 3.5 years ago, or been more proactive just one transfer window ago?
Had those in charge of transfer dealings at the club acted quicker, one Premier League title could’ve been sealed those years ago. Two, while more ambitious and less likely, might just have happened last season too.