We finally saw that Mo Salah is only human thanks to the tumble he took after coming under a challenge from Gary Cahill at Stamford Bridge on the penultimate Sunday of the Premier League season.
The man in the middle, Anthony Taylor, called it correctly in producing his yellow card, but, even more importantly for me, so did the Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp.
Of course it’s not natural to dive like that, but it can happen so quickly I still think the majority of our top coaches would opt to defend the player no matter what, given the same situation.
In fact, it’s a pity that we talk more about the ones who are so staunchly anti-diving, like Tony Pulis, for example, when perhaps he should actually represent the norm and the pundits should be calling out those who don’t take a stand, with their own players, too, instead.
For me what Klopp has done is to nip it in the bud with Salah, assuming he meant what he said. When a manager does step up and he takes control like that, responding by being pro-active in the face of simulation, if you like, I think the effect is that it nullifies it to an extent, and it”s our best chance of cutting this act of cheating out altogether.
It’s all well and good and so very easy to say from where I’m sitting, without having to go through the stress of managing at that level, but I think the essential honesty Klopp shows time and again goes a long way to explaining his popularity. It’s one of many reasons he goes down so well with Liverpool supporters in particular.
Having given Klopp so much credit, however, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to Salah, too. He is without a shadow of a doubt the best player of the season in my book. So much so that we are already talking in terms of how long Liverpool can realistically keep him.
We need more managers to do what Klopp did, and let’s face it, the easier thing to do by far would have been to switch the focus back to how amazing he is, and go with the narrative that he looks capable of joining the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the very top of the tree.
Salah has shown so much more recently than this blip in terms of his character. Some may have been surprised by the tenacity he showed in confronting an Egyptian team-mate when Liverpool faced West Brom and their defender Ahmed Hegazi, for example. I wasn’t, and if anything it confirmed the calmness coupled with the determination you see in those old rivals from Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.
OK, you will see some fire come out occasionally, but overall, the way that pair manage to defy any attempts to intimidate them is another mark of their greatness, and for me Salah has shown he possesses a similar mentality.
I felt after the semi-final first leg victory over Roma that there were signs Liverpool might have it in them to win the Champions League again, even if that means meeting the tallest of orders in defeating a side chasing its 13th, and a fourth in five seasons at that.
Provided Salah can maintain the kind of devastating form he has shown for the vast majority of the season, I see no reason to change my mind.