What happened to the three forwards who snubbed Liverpool before Mohamed Salah transfer
“No, not from us, not from the Liverpool supporters. Maybe from you.”
Mohamed Salah is an undisputed Liverpool legend. Joining from AS Roma for an initial £36.9m in the summer of 2017, he has won every major honour on offer to him at Anfield and, with 186 goals in six years, is fifth in the club’s all-time leading goalscorers charts.
Breaking records almost on a weekly basis, it feels, Jurgen Klopp has regularly been asked about the Egyptian in recent weeks as the forward hit yet another 30-goal season. One of the regular questions that has been faced is variations of one querying whether Salah is underrated, overlooked, or even taken for granted, such is the frightening consistency behind both his goal contributions and availability over the past six seasons.
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For the record, Klopp wasn’t having any of it as he insisted the Egyptian will go down as one of the all-time greats.
“No, not from us, not from the Liverpool supporters, maybe from you,” Klopp told reporters. “This question is now not the first time that I hear it. Not from us.
“I’ve said it a lot of times, he will be an all-time great when he finishes his career but now he is still in his career. If you see Mo every day, there’s still a really good few years in his legs and in his body and the numbers will improve. That’s absolutely great.
“No, we don’t overlook it but when the question is asked that often you might be guilty to overlook it.”
Given Salah’s astonishing success at Anfield, establishing himself as one of the very best players in the world, it’s easy to forget he wasn’t Liverpool’s first-choice attacking target in the summer of 2017. After a year trying to strengthen the Reds’ front-line, he wasn’t even in their top three.
While he had his admirers in the Liverpool recruitment team, who had previously tried and failed to sign him in January 2014, Klopp still needed persuading that the Egyptian was the man for the Reds. In the meantime, they looked at a number of different wide-forwards before eventually moving for Salah.
Following the forward’s Anfield arrival, The Times reported that: “Ramy Abbas Issa, who had replaced the agents who had negotiated Salah’s move to Chelsea, smoothed his client’s move to Merseyside, but only after Liverpool had looked at other targets.
“Borussia Dortmund refused to let Christian Pulisic leave, Julian Draxler was pursued last January, opting to move instead to Paris Saint-Germain from Wolfsburg, and Julian Brandt chose to stay at Bayer Leverkusen fearing that he would not play regularly at Anfield.
“Liverpool scouted about 15 wide players between missing out on Salah and signing him. Klopp has conceded that it was Dave Fallows, head of scouting and recruitment, Barry Hunter, the chief scout, and Michael Edwards, the sporting director, whose background checks extended to spying missions at training camps as well as matches, who constantly pushed his case.”
It goes without saying that Liverpool will have no regrets, with Salah by far the most successful player out of the quartet. But what happened to the three players the Reds tried to sign instead?
Liverpool had seen an £11m bid rejected for Pulisic in August 201610 months before Salah’s arrival, with Borussia Dortmund’s stance remaining unwavering in the months that followed.
He would belatedly get his move to the Premier League in 2019, joining Chelsea in a £58m deal. But while he would win the Champions League in 2021, along with the European Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, the United States’ international’s time at Stamford Bridge has often been plagued by injury.
Boasting 26 goals and 21 assists from 143 appearances over four seasons, he has started just 83 times. And limited to just nine starts in the Premier League and Champions League this season, the 24-year-old is not first-choice even when fit and continues to be linked with an exit.
Draxler would join PSG in a £34m deal in January 2017 despite late interest from the Reds. The Germany international would later explain his reasoning for snubbing Liverpool’s advances.
“You know we have been in talks with some clubs in England as well, but this time I decided to make the decision as to what I feel and what I prefer for myself,” he told the BBC World Service. “There were some teams that wanted me from the Premier League but it was not like it was very, very close.
“Football is about making decisions and that’s what I did. I decided that PSG is the best club for me at the moment.
“It’s not about Jurgen Klopp, about Liverpool or about different clubs from England. It was just my opinion that I am the best player for PSG at the moment – so that’s what I decided.
“I chose a great new step in my career because PSG is a really, really great club . They have big goals, they want to reach big things and that’s why I want to be part of it. I did not – and will not – decide my club just for the money.”
Draxler has spent the current season on loan at Portuguese side Benfica, but has made just 18 appearances, and only four league starts, in a campaign wrecked by injury. Yet he was only on loan in Portugal in the first place having rarely been anything more than a squad player at PSG.
Registering 26 goals and 41 assists for the French giants over the past six and a half seasons, he has started 118 times across this period. Still, at least he has partly contributed to four Ligue 1 titles, and seven French domestic cup wins.
Brandt would reject Liverpool in the summer of 2017 in favour of staying at Bayer Leverkusen, opting not to move on before the 2018 World Cup.
“My gut feeling and my head are telling me the time to move has not arrived yet,” Brandt explained to Kicker at the time. “I have to straighten things out in Leverkusen.
“Of course there are players who say a year without European football before the World Cup is good reason to move. But if you move to a bigger club a year before the World Cup, you risk taking time at first to settle which possibly means playing fewer games.”
He would later join Borussia Dortmund for £21.7m after they activated his release clause in May 2019. Recording 30 goals and 34 assists from 168 appearances over the past four seasons, he has at least been a regular starter having boasted 121 starts.
Yet a solitary DFB-Pokal remains the only silverware of his Dortmund career. However, he could win the Bundesliga title next weekend, and has been central to any BVB success this season.
Starting 37 times, he has 10 goals and nine assists from 41 appearances in all competitions. Only Bellingham has scored more, with only Raphael Guerreiro registering more assists.
Pulisic (24), Draxler (29), and Brandt (27) are all younger than Salah, who will celebrate his 31st birthday next month. Yet none of the trio can even come close to competing with the Egyptian’s record at Liverpool.
Making 304 appearances, he has started a whopping 282 times with his consistent availability quite frankly obscene. Meanwhile, his 186 goals makes him the fifth-highest scorer in the club’s history after registering yet another 30-goal season.
His record of 73 assists is not to be sniffed at either. According to LFC History’s records, only five Reds players have set up more goals than Salah since the start of the 1969/70 season.
And then there’s the trophies. Champions League, European Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup, Community Shield. Plus an endless, ever-growing list of individual records and accolades.
We’ll never know how any of Pulisic, Draxler or Brandt’ would have fared in place of the forward, but ultimately their loss was Salah’s gain.
Liverpool won’t question how they ended up with the forward in their attack. All they know, looking back, is that the Egyptian King has proven to be the perfect fit at Anfield.
Overlooked elsewhere, perhaps. But when Salah’s Liverpool career eventually comes to an end, he will be remembered as one of the Reds’ greatest ever players.
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