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Mohamed Salah’s career was reignited alongside a sensational collection of mavericks in 2015

Fiorentina's squad was full of waifs and strays during the 2014/15 campaign but most of them, including Mohamed Salah, have gone on to bigger and better things

The year is 2022.

There’s a collective yawn in Paris as Mohamed Salah rises to collect his third consecutive Ballon d’Or trophy.

The Real Madrid forward first thanks his family, then his adoring fans and lastly the club that made all this possible- Fiorentina.


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The 2022 Ballon d’Or winner with a fan

AP:Associated Press
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The 2022 Ballon d’Or winner with a fan

Now let’s head back to 24 January 2015.

Salah had just been withdrawn 70 minutes into an FA Cup tie against Bradford. Chelsea would go on to lose 4-2.

Eight days later Salah was shipped off to Florence to join Fiorentina for the rest of the season, destined to be one of Chelsea’s never again heard from loan brigade.

But taking in discarded footballing throwaways was nothing new for La Viola.

Vincenzo Montella’s squad contained more waifs and strays than you could throw a Blazing Squad reunion tour at.

Gonzalo Rodriguez, who often captained the side, had suffered two cruciate ligament injuries and a broken leg at previous club Villarreal.

He was joined in defence by Micah Richards, fresh from ten seasons as a Man City player, and Stefan Savic, who had only lasted one year in Manchester.

Marcos Alonso had failed to make the grade at Real Madrid but was hoping to re-establish his reputation in Europe after spells with Bolton and Sunderland.

From the Bernabeu to Bolton

PA:Press Association
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From the Bernabeu to Bolton

Alberto Aquilani was still learning to stand up straight after succumbing to the weight of expectation of being Xabi Alonso’s replacement at Liverpool, while Alessandro Diamanti, David Pizarro and Borja Valero hadn’t fared much better in the Premier League.

Throw Joaquin, Giussepe Rossi, Alberto Gilardino and Mario Gomez into the mix and you get a good idea of the type of squad Salah was joining.

We’ve not even touched on Peru’s flying winger Juan Manuel Vargas or Federico Bernadeschi, who was being heralded as the new Roberto Baggio.

Premier League Years: The Serie A edition

EPA
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Premier League Years: The Serie A edition

Salah’s first experience of the Artemio Franchi came as a 65th minute substitute for Joaquin during a 3-2 win against Atalanta.

Montella handed him a start in Fiorentina’s next game, against Sassuolo, and Salah didn’t look back.

He scored six time in his next six game including a goal as Fiorentina knocked Spurs out of the Europa League and the winners against Inter Milan and Fiorentina.

Chelsea fans scratched their heads at why the Egyptian hadn’t been given a proper chance in south-west London.

Further goals against Sampdoria, Empoli and Parma helped Fiorentina finish fourth in Serie A, above Napoli and both Milan sides.

Give us your biggest smile, Mo

AP:Associated Press
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Give us your biggest smile, Mo

Three months at Fiorentina was enough to jump start Salah’s career.

In a legally perilous move Salah refused to link up with Fiorentina for the rest of his 18-month loan the following season and instead joined Roma.

Two campaigns in the Eternal City convinced Liverpool to give him another chance in England and the rest is history.

Take note, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Charly Musonda, Kenedy and Lucas Piazon.


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