By NEIL JONES
End the debate. Seriously. There isn’t one any more. Mohamed Salah is the best player in the world right now, the Goal.com reports.
We probably didn’t even need his latest masterpiece in order to reach that conclusion. We didn’t need to see him do to Watford what he did to Manchester City. Or to Porto, for that matter. Or Milan, or Norwich, or…you get the picture.
No, we’ve known for some time that Salah is top dog. In a world dominated for so long by the Portuguese machine and the Argentine magician, it is the Egyptian King who is, well, king.
Who could argue? Salah’s form has been special for years, but it’s truly incredible right now. He’s not just scoring, he’s assisting too. He’s working as hard as he ever has. He’s terrifying defenders, thrilling supporters with his genius. No wonder he can’t stop smiling.
“His performance was massive today,” Klopp said afterwards. “The pass for the first goal was great and the second goal was special.
“He is top. We all see it. Who is better than him? We don’t have to talk about what (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo have done for world football and their dominance. But right now, he is the best.”
The proof came here, at Vicarage Road, in a 5-0 win.
Salah signed off for the international break with one of the most dazzling, audacious individual goals you could ever wish to see. A goal replayed the world over, one which would, in Jurgen Klopp’s words, be talked about in 60 years’ time.
“Pretty good,” was Salah’s typically-humble verdict. But was this solo strike superior?
“I don’t know which one was better,” the man himself told BT Sport. “I was just in the box trying to find someone or score myself. It is all about the team. That is always the most important thing.”
And the team played pretty well. Liverpool were three up and cruising at Vicarage Road when Salah struck.
He had already, in quite sublime fashion, laid on one goal for Sadio Mane, the Senegalese’s 100th in the Premier League. Salah had also been denied a couple of times by Ben Foster and seen another effort blocked by a desperate Watford defender.
Roberto Firmino had added a second before half-time and a third after it. The Brazilian would complete his hat-trick in stoppage time. Salah, though, would steal the show.
On 54 minutes, he collected a pass from Firmino, a yard inside the penalty area and with four Watford defenders for company. But, just as he’d done to Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva and Co. a fortnight ago, he left Tom Cleverley, Cucho Hernandez and Juraj Kucka trailing. Too quick, too sharp.
Just like he’d done to Aymeric Laporte, he left Craig Cathcart spinning, dazed. Sliding for a ball that wasn’t there. Too good. And then, the finish. Composed, side-footed and with deadly accuracy. Far corner. Foster stood watching. So, so good.
Salah smiled. Trent Alexander-Arnold was first to him, almost laughing. Behind them, Firmino produced his trademark kung-fu kick. That might be the only way to stop Salah right now.
On the sidelines, Klopp wore the expression of a man who’d found a winning EuroMillions ticket in an old pair of jeans. Has that just happened? Really? It had.
You felt for Watford, in particular Danny Rose, who had the kind of afternoon which makes a player question everything. Why go through this, run ragged trying to stop a man who simply cannot be stopped. Salah had Rose dazed from the word go.
He’d eluded him three times already before, in the ninth minute, he escaped him to set up Mane’s opener, with a beautifully-weighted outside-of-the foot through-ball. Mane, on the run, did the rest with a clinical finish.
How encouraging for Klopp to see his front three, his long-standing front three, playing like this. When Salah, Mane and Firmino are on song, there are few better sights in football.
Firmino finished with the match ball tucked under his arm, perfectly-placed to convert three close-range finishes. He got the assist for Salah’s goal too, although, like Curtis Jones against City, he’d have a cheek claiming it.
Klopp couldn’t help but smile. He had the luxury of taking off both his flying full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, with nearly half an hour remaining, and Neco Williams, one of the Reds’ three replacements, came on to pick up an assist of his own.
Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip could have spent the game on Instagram, had they wanted. Caoimhin Kelleher, the goalkeeper deputising for Alisson Becker, had as comfortable an afternoon as he could have wished for. The travelling Kop loved it.
“The Reds have got no money,” they sang, “but we’ll still win the league.”
With Salah doing Salah things, and with Mane and Firmino finding form, you’d be well advised to believe them.