Johannesburg - If Mohamed Salah listened to José Mourinho’s infamous monologue about football culture, he probably burst into laughter.
Ahead of Manchester United’s FA Cup semi-final clash against Brighton, the self-proclaimed Special One said he had done well with the players he had at his disposal.
He attributed most of Manchester City’s success to the squad that coach Pep Guardiola found when he joined the Citizens.
One of the players Guardiola has been able to rely on is Kevin De Bruyne, who is one of the favourites to take the Player of the Year award.
Winning the award would provide a huge turnaround for the Belgian player, who was “not good enough” when Mourinho was in charge of Chelsea.
Ironically, the player who could give De Bruyne a run for his money is fellow Mourinho reject Salah.
Chelsea bought the winger from Swiss club Basel for £12 million (R199 million at today’s exchange rate) in 2014.
During his first six months under Mourinho, Salah played just two full games and was mostly deployed as a late substitute.
When the second season failed to bring respite, he was lent to Fiorentina, where he found his scoring boots before being bought by Roma.
Salah was one of the star players at Roma during his two-season stint at the club. He was in top form during his first season, scoring 14 goals in 34 matches.
The Egyptian beat his own record the following season, scoring 15 goals in 31 matches.
That prompted Liverpool – who already wanted to sign him when Chelsea secured his services – to lure him back to the English Premier League with a £34 million contract.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp, who apparently saw something in the 25-year-old that Mourinho didn’t, has managed to bring the best out of Salah, allowing the Egyptian to move from the wings into the role of a traditional inside forward.
Klopp said that, even though Salah has been his stand-out player, he would not receive any special treatment.
“We will not treat him like: ‘You don’t have to train, Mo – just come on Saturday for the game and we’ll see you there at Anfield or whatever,’” said the German manager.
“He doesn’t want that. He’s in that moment of his career, but he knows there is a lot to come for him.”
Having played 30 matches for the Reds in the Premier League this season, Salah leads the scoring chart with an astonishing 28 goals from just 30 matches, four more than second-placed Harry Kane.
Salah also has a three-goal lead at the top of the European scorer chart, with Lionel Messi in second place.
Unsurprisingly, Salah is being compared to Messi and is being touted as a potential Ballon d’Or winner.
A good performance with the Pharaohs at the World Cup in Russia could see him become the second African to win football’s biggest accolade.
Salah said it was an honour to be compared to a player of Messi’s calibre.
“When you are compared to a big player like that, it feels really good. The comparison was between my goals and his,” he said.
“I’ve strived to add value to the club since the moment I arrived. I set a goal when I joined the club at the beginning of the season, but I’m not going to reveal it now. I’ll only reveal it at the end of the season.”