Twelve months after injury forced him off in Kiev, the Egyptian scored and sealed European glory in Madrid as Liverpool beat Tottenham
Never let it be said that Mohamed Salah is not a man of his word.
On Tuesday, at Liverpool’s pre-Champions League final media day at Melwood, the Egyptian had made a promise to a local journalist.
If the Reds won, he said, he’d do an interview.
“No, WHEN we win,” he corrected.
Journalists don’t tend to forget. And so here, in the bowels of the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, they came to collect.
Salah was the first Liverpool player to emerge from the dressing rooms, more than two hours after their sixth European Cup success had been confirmed.
And smiling, with a shiny gold medal round his neck, he made good on his promise.
“It’s great, just great, you know,” he said. “The final of the Champions’ League, taking a penalty so early, it shows the courage, to win the trophy today. It’s just a great feeling.”
Salah got Liverpool off to a flier against Tottenham, converting from the spot inside two minutes, after Moussa Sissoko had handled Sadio Mane’s cross. It was the second-fastest Champions League final goal of all time, and Salah’s 27th of the season in all competitions.
It also completed a remarkable 12 months for the 26-year-old, who was left heartbroken in last season’s final, forced off injured against Real Madrid after just half an hour, and made to watch as, without him, Liverpool went down 3-1.
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“I looked at the picture from last year before the game,” he would reveal here. “We were a little bit disappointed after the final and now we are back and have won it again, the sixth time for Liverpool, it is something great.
“Last year it was disappointment. I was very disappointed that I got injured and went out after 30 minutes and we lost the game. It was something to motivate me to win today.
“I didn’t look at the picture for a long time. I just looked at it one time and said ‘OK, let’s go’.”
With regular taker James Milner starting on the bench, Salah said he had prepared himself for the prospect of taking a penalty against Spurs. He’s taken pressure kicks before, of course.
“I scored a penalty to send Egypt to the World Cup after 28 years in the last minute,” he pointed out. “So this one was easier!
“Our job is more mental and you have to believe in yourself before the game. You could see the players; we were believing in ourselves in the game.
“I think everything happens for a reason and the reason for us to lose the final last season was to come back and win it again.”
Victory in Madrid, of course, ensures Liverpool have something to show for their remarkable, rollercoaster campaign. Having missed out narrowly to Manchester City in the Premier League, this was the perfect fillip for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
“With Liverpool, the Champions League. Something special,” said Salah. “The first trophy and it’s the Champions League!
“We will go next season for the Premier League. This season was the first season we were really fighting for the Premier League, last season we were basically fighting for the Champions League. The year before the Europa League.
“We lost the Premier League with one point against Man City, which was well deserved. I don’t want to take anything away from Tottenham. They were great today, a good team and deserved to be in the final. They had an unbelievable competition. What I can say to them is ‘Sorry, and good luck in the future’.”
As for Liverpool, the hope is that they can kick on from here, that they can start a new era of success at Anfield. As Klopp pointed out, post-match, the bulk of his side are in the prime of their careers. There should be more trophies to come.
“The average age of [the squad] is 26/27 so we still have young players,” agreed Salah. “It is good experience for us to win the trophy now and also last season we learned a lot. As you can see today we were more calm, scored a second goal after 86 or 87 minutes and we were patient in the game.
“For us, it’s the start. It’s the first competition.”
And with that, he was gone. Off to celebrate. Twelve months on, he has his Champions League glory.