The Ballon d’Or is the most prestigious individual award a footballer can hope for, and for the first time in its history, it is within reach for an Egyptian player.
At the age of 29, Salah is reaching new heights, scoring goal after goal, breaking record after record. With the sharp contrast he is striking to the waning superiority of Portuguese and Argentinian legends Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, many football commentators and fans are going as far as saying that he is currently the best football player in the world.
Jürgen Klopp, Salah’s manager at Liverpool FC, has spoken a handful of times about how he is currently the best in the world, a viewpoint held also by former Liverpool striker Fernando Torres. Klopp says that he respects the achievements of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as “the gods of football” as he put it, but no one is matching Salah’s level currently.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 4, 2021
Although this is the third consecutive year Salah finds himself shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or, his stellar performance so far this season makes this the first time he stands a realistic chance at winning. And if he does, he will be first ever Egyptian and Arab, and the second African football player alongside Liberia’s former forward and current president, George Weah, to earn football’s most highly sought-after personal accolade.
Club and Country
There is no longer any doubt that Mohamed Salah is the most successful Egyptian footballer of all time. From his humble beginnings commuting from his hometown of Nagrig to Cairo every day for training, to having songs written about him and being dubbed the Egyptian King by the fans of one of the highest achieving clubs in one of the most competitive leagues in the world, most of us have heard the thrilling tale of his rise to stardom. But what about his achievements this year?
Salah’s biggest strength as far as Ballon d’Or claim goes is the number of stunning goals he’s scored already this season, which is not even halfway through. He is up to 15 goals so far and his strike in his team’s recent match against Manchester City will undoubtedly be one of the Premier League’s goals of the year.
His hat-trick against Manchester United – in the most watched fixture on the planet – will not have gone unnoticed, either. In that same match against Manchester United, Salah succeeded in scoring his 105th Premier League goal, allowing him to overtake the Cote D’Ivoire legend Dider Drogba.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) October 26, 2021
Alongside his stellar goal scoring record, Salah is also known to do his teammates valuable favours. He has the highest number of assists among his teammates in Liverpool, and the second highest in the Premier League.
So Can He?
So can Salah actually win this year’s Ballon d’Or? If this question were easy to answer, we would already know the identity of the winner.
While many, including Jürgen Klopp, are in agreement that Mohamed Salah is the world’s finest footballer right now, his lack of trophies in 2021 will certainly count against him. The Ballon d’Or selections usually are influenced by the achievements of those who have won the Champions League or major international tournaments for their national teams that year.
Salah is also in esteemed company on the shortlist. Though his club career may have taken a dip after his departure from FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi has just captained his national team to a long-awaited victory at the South American continental championship, Copa América, not to mention snagging the Spanish Copa del Rey just before leaving for the French Ligue 1.
Polish FC Bayern München striker Robert Lewandowski has proven to be nothing short of an unstoppable goal-scoring prodigy who was expected to have been the winner of the title in 2020 had the ceremony not been cancelled due to the pandemic. France and Real Madrid CF’s Karim Benzema is another strong candidate after a prolific year of goal scoring, as well as leading his national team to win the UEFA Nations League.
Despite commentators and pundits praising Salah’s consistently excellent form this season, they project that Messi, Lewandowski, and Benzema may have a better chance at winning due to the trophies they managed to bring to their clubs and countries.
But speculation can only take us so far. All will be revealed at the Ballon d’Or ceremony on 29 November.
This article was written in collaboration with Paul Gorst of the Liverpool Echo. The Echo recently released a 48-page special celebrating Salah’s 100th Premier League goal. You can access it online by clicking here.