On Tuesday night it was Robert Lewandowski, on Wednesday evening it was Karim Benzema. The pair both hit Champions League hat-tricks with the latter joining Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah on eight goals in the competition this season and the former now on a ridiculous 12 in eight games.
And Liverpool should perhaps consider Lewandowski and Benzema’s incredible goalscoring statistics when it comes to Salah’s uncertain Anfield future.
The Egyptian is out of contract in just over 12 months’ time and as it stands, the current best player in the world will be leaving Liverpool on a free in 2023.
Salah has 27 goals and 10 assists in 34 matches across all competitions this season. That includes 29 direct goal contributions in 25 Premier League outings, nine more than any other player.
But Salah’s age – he turns 30 this June – is partly why Liverpool are reluctant to substantially upgrade his £200,000-a-week wages. It has been claimed he wants double that, and his form for the club since 2017 justifies such a request.
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Were he four years younger, the Merseyside outfit might be more inclined to meet that figure despite the fact their next highest-paid player is Virgil van Dijk on £220,000 a week, with another reason behind their reluctance to double Salah’s salary being that they do not want a big disparity in pay across the squad.
One reason he’s yet to sign a new deal is that the Reds are more reluctant to hand players big contracts in their 30s.
Captain Jordan Henderson signed a new four-year deal at 31 last summer, but only after manager Jurgen Klopp stepped in. Gini Wijnaldum left on a free last year after five excellent years because Liverpool were not willing to significantly increase the now 31-year-old’s £90,000-a-week pay.
But if Liverpool are worried that Salah’s form will drop off in the coming years, they need only look at the likes of Lewandowski and Benzema as examples that the most elite players can continue to be game-changers well beyond 30. Salah is very much one of those top-tier talents.
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Lewandowski and Benzema are of course out-and-out centre-forwards and always have been, whereas Salah has predominantly always been a winger, but the Egypt international is as good as the pair and has himself shown he can operate through the middle.
That may be where his future lies in the long term, in the same way that Cristiano Ronaldo evolved from all-action winger into a ruthless penalty box poacher.
Salah will no doubt have to change his game over the course of his next contract but has such immense quality that he will continue to impact matches, much like Ronaldo has.
Certainly both Lewandowski and Benzema are doing that. Lewandowski’s Bayern Munich are on to win a 10th successive Bundesliga title and are among the most dangerous teams in the Champions League quarter-finals.
The Pole has 42 goals and four assists in 35 games this term and has scored over 100 goals since turning 30. He netted 48 last term but could go on to beat that this year, with this the seventh straight season he’s hit 40-plus goals.
Benzema was often overshadowed by Ronaldo at Real Madrid but since the Portuguese’s Bernabeu departure in 2018 has 117 goals and 43 assists in 180 games, which includes 30 goals and 12 assists in just 30 matches this term.
That’s in spite of the fact he turned 34 in December, which would make him the second oldest outfield player at Liverpool after James Milner.
The strict policies of owners Fenway Sports Group have of course served Liverpool well but when it comes to a player of Salah’s talents, perhaps it might be wise to rethink them and put the money on the table.
How they would live to regret it if he moved elsewhere and like Benzema and Lewandowski continued to flourish well into his 30s.
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