By Biola Kazeem (@biolakazeem)
When Lionel Messi won his record fifth Balon D’or in January 2016, eclipsing at the time the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinidine Zidane etc, and cementing a decade of complete dominance at the highest level possible with credit for inspiring a second treble for his club – a feat they only are responsible for, he must have thought he has earned the right to be exempted from petty comparisons and rave-of-the-moment argument.
However, here we are, only two years down the lane, trying to discredit attempts to liken Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah to the legend by any means or stretch of imagination.
It was an idea first mooted by British journalists and pundits who have earned the unenviable reputation of spreading the most bizarre football narrative/logic, either as a way to sustain the buzz around the Premier League and their relevance or to inadvertently advertise their ignorance of the game on the grandest of stages.
This idea, that Salah is somewhat close to being Messi or even on the same level with the Argentinian, has surprisingly taken hold with Liverpool’s manager, Jurgen Klopp also joining the party following a league victory which saw the Egyptian score four goals, taking his league tally to 28, the most by any player in Europe’s top five leagues.
It is without doubt that everyone, including the pundits responsible for broaching this conversation, agrees that the antecedents of both players offer no complication or ambiguity on who is superior. For there is no way two league titles – one of which was earned out of utmost consideration following a paltry three appearances – and League cup can stand on the same street, not even room, with eight league titles and four UCL titles.
With no basis for comparison in the past, whether distant or immediate, it would be safe to conclude that the comparison stems out of the desperation by the British pundits to subject argument to strange logic by, sometimes, reducing players to a single season or year in order to reach a predetermined conclusion.
This is after all why Jose Mourinho is “finished” less than a year after returning his club to the UCL with the conquest of the Europa League and the league cup in his first season in charge; but Pep Guardiola is “visionary”for being on his way to win the League following a previous season of abject failure and hundreds of millions of investment.
It is also the reason the likes of Arsene Wenger – who only last year completed a hat-trick of the FA Cup in four years – are paraded as dinosaurs with failed, ancient tactics; while the likes of Mauricio Pochetinno and Jurgen Klopp are considered “modern” even though their modern tactics have failed to win anything.
Going by this reductive and inconsistent logic however, it is still difficult to see how Mohammed Salah holds up to Lionel Messi. While Mohammed Salah’s obvious talent and contribution to the relative success of Liverpool in the domestic league and the Champions League cannot be dismissed, Lionel Messi is conversely on the brink of securing another treble for his club as his goals, assists and other innumerable contributions have pulled them closer to the La Liga title, quarterfinal of the UEFA Champions League and the final of the Copa Del Rey.
If being your club’s star player and the league’s rave of the moment is all it takes to be on the level of Lionel Messi, then it shouldn’t just be Mohammed Salah in the fray, we may as well add the likes of Mauro Icardi, Robert Lewandowski or even Kevin De Bruyne.
Mohammed Salah is a delight, no doubt. But he is on Messi’s level only in the minds of those who are driven mostly by emotions and transient logic which changes from player to player.