Football

Klopp: Salah deserves to be Player of the Season

Klopp backs his free-scoring star for award, but Hazard plumps for de Bruyne

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said Mohamed Salah would be a deserving EPL Player of the Season after the Egyptian continued his remarkable scoring run as the Reds beat Newcastle United 2-0 yesterday morning (Singapore time) to go second in the English Premier League.

Klopp's men moved one point clear of Manchester United, who they visit on Saturday.

But the Red Devils can go into that epic clash with second spot reclaimed if they beat Crystal Palace tomorrow morning.

Either way, United will go into the match wary of an on-fire Salah.

When the 25-year-old gave Liverpool the lead after 40 minutes, it was his 31st goal in all competitions for Liverpool this season and the seventh game in succession that he had found the net.

Sadio Mane made the result safe 15 minutes later with his 14th goal of the season.

Salah has now matched Luis Suarez's best scoring season for the Reds, and his record of finding the net in 26 matches for Liverpool is unmatched in Europe's top five leagues.

Said Klopp: "I really love this player...

"It's a different position, but it depends on what you want to have. There's no doubt that Kevin de Bruyne plays a nice season, to be honest.

"And there's no doubt that Mo Salah plays a really good one as well. That's how it is.

"There are a few good players. I think a few people would mention that Harry Kane is not too bad, Roberto Firmino is not too bad, David Silva.

"If he can win this competition then he really deserves it.

"There are a few games to go and we have to make sure that he can keep on going in this shape."

Former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher believes that while de Bruyne is the favourite to win the EPL's most prestigious individual accolade, if Salah can continue his impressive showings in big games like the one against United, he could pip the Belgian to the Player of the Season gong.

Carragher wrote in his Daily Telegraph column: "If you had asked me a few months ago who deserved this year's accolade, I would have said it must be de Bruyne...

"But with respect to the Belgian, the more I assess Salah's contribution, the more I feel he deserves to push de Bruyne far closer than I imagined.

"He has the potential to go ahead in the next few weeks, particularly if he produces a match-winning performance at Old Trafford next weekend."

A star turn against United won't be able to sway Eden Hazard, though, who said he picked his compatriot over his former Blues teammate because "Salah is more a striker than a player".

He told Sky Sports: "I voted for Kevin de Bruyne. He is the best. I could have also voted for Salah because I played with him and he's my friend, but Salah is more a striker than a player.

"Kevin has got everything. He defends, crosses the ball, assists and scores goals in big games. For me, he is the best."

However, Salah's teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pointed out that the Egyptian's predatory prowess is testament to his all-round game.

The English midfielder, who set up the Egyptian's opener, told beIN Sports: "He's such a good runner off the ball, he makes such good runs, and it makes it easy for me or whoever to find him.

"Even balls that aren't the best, he can turn into good balls, and then, when he gets on the end of them, he's got amazing ability to find space for a shot."

Carragher has compared Salah's transformation from a winger into a goalscoring wide forward to Cristiano Ronaldo's positional development, and his former teammate Steven Gerrard believes that transition is down to Klopp.

The Reds legend told Liverpool's website: "When Juergen signed him, he said to him, 'I don't want you stuck out wide on the wings creating for other people, I want you to be the main man. You're going to be the top scorer in this team, so attack the sticks and attack central areas.'"

Football