Mohamed Salah is a wonderful, joyous footballer.
You don’t win a Premier League Golden Boot- breaking the 38-game record in the process- and become the fastest man to score 50 Liverpool goals if you’re anything other than world class.
Salah has done more for Egyptian football than even the great Amr Zaki could muster. He’s the highest scoring Egyptian in Premier League and Serie A history, Egypt’s all-time African Cup of Nation qualifying goalscorer and Egypt’s top Champions League goalscorer.
In short, Salah is a GOAT/ماعز.
That being said, in my humble opinion which you are free to dismantle whichever way you best see fit, Sadio Mane is a better footballer.
Not a more influential footballer. Definitely not a more efficient footballer. Just a better one.
On the surface, the statistics won’t back that opinion up.
Salah has scored 20 goals in 40 appearances for Liverpool this season, while Mane’s double against Bayern Munich took him to 19 goals in 37 appearances. The Egyptian has contributed nine assists to his team-mates’s three in all competitions.
But you’d expect that. Everything goes through Salah while Mane, and to a greater extent Roberto Firmino, work hard to provide the Egyptian the room within which to operate.
Statistics are notorious shapeshifters, with which you can essentially paint whatever picture you please. Those attacking statistics ignore the fact that Salah makes more bad controls per game and is dispossessed on average nearly three times more per game than Mane.
The Senegalese forward trumps Salah when it comes to tackles per game, interceptions per game, clearances per game, blocks per game, average passes per game, pass success rate per game and long balls per game.
You could, therefore, make the argument that Mane is statistically outperforming Salah in terms of their overall game. After all, so much of Liverpool’s collective success comes from their relentless energy and pressing from the front.
But let’s move away from statistics and towards the emotions that are stirred when watching Mane in full flight.
Mane isn’t the quickest player in the Premier League. But when facing up a defender the milliseconds he loses to Leroy Sane (35.18 km/h) DeAndre Yedlin (35.17 km/h) and Felipe Anderson (35.11 km/h) become irrelevant.
The 26-year-old has the rare combination of lighting speed and breakneck agility which makes world-class defenders, and Neymar, start making strange decisions.
The mere hint of movement from Mane sees otherwise coherent and rational players stumble two yards in the opposite direction from where they should be heading.
Mane isn’t a 100m sprinter, he’s a 5m sprinter. In football, those five metres do all the damage.
That’s not to say Salah is a slouch. He just doesn’t have the same ability to devastate within the confines of a red telephone box that Mane does. In another life, Mane would be the Lionel Messi of touch rugby.
If you were to remove the goals and poll 100 defenders about who they’d least like to find themselves one-on-one with between Salah and Mane, the latter’s unpredictability would see him win out (although obviously I can never prove that).
But sometimes Mane is too speedy for his own good. His mind and body work are too quick for the football, and his team-mates, to keep up. Hence why the 26-year-old tends to do his best work in streaks.
If Mane’s streaks became steady streams, as is the case with Salah, there would be no argument to be had when discussing the two.
As it is, Salah’s ruthlessness in front of goal means plenty of people will disagree with my opinion that Mane is the better player out of the two.
Good job that football is a game of opinions, argued by perfectly rational human beings on non-toxic platforms.
Feel free to send any counterarguments over by carrier pigeon. They’ll know where to find me.
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