Liverpool might be better off without Salah and £200m richer

Liverpool have made their position on Mohamed Salah absolutely clear. No amount of money from Saudi Pro League champions Al Ittihad will persuade them to offload their star forward — a stance that held firm when an offer worth up to £150 million was received on transfer deadline day.

Jurgen Klopp doubled down on the club’s official position on Sunday by saying that, even if a bigger bid comes in this week ahead of the Saudi transfer deadline at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, Liverpool will reject it once again. “Yes,” Klopp said, when asked directly whether Al Ittihad would be turned away.

With the sums involved and the prospect of Salah entering the final year of his Anfield contract next summer, though, there will come a point when rejecting further offers becomes a case of playing to the crowd rather than doing what makes sense — on and off the pitch. That point might already have been reached, because even for a player of Salah’s undoubted star quality and value to the team, there comes a time when financial reality must hit home.

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It’s a simple equation being played out by Liverpool and Klopp right now. Salah is their best player, their goal-scoring talisman, and even if they banked an incredible fee for the former Chelsea and AS Roma forward, he is virtually irreplaceable.

If Liverpool had the benefit of a full transfer window to replace Salah, they would find it almost impossible. Trying to do so in the final hours of business, or after the window has closed if they receive another bid this week, could wreck their hopes of success this season less than a month after it began.

A £150m offer ($190m) for a 31-year-old forward with two years left to run on his contract is a staggering proposal to turn down, though. From a football perspective, it makes sense, but it is debatable as to whether it stacks up from a business point of view.

Fenway Sports Group (FSG) has been accused in the past of putting business first and football second, but Liverpool’s owners have backed Klopp, and the wishes of the club’s supporters, by rejecting Al Ittihad’s offer for Salah.

Liverpool have made a statement that they will not be forced into parting with a player who has elevated himself to a place alongside Anfield’s legends during his six years at the club, but for that decision to be backed up this season, Salah needs to help the club return to the Champions League and win the Premier League again. If they don’t achieve both of those objectives, keeping Salah will be a gamble that fails to pay off.

In January 2018, Liverpool accepted defeat in their attempts to hold on to Philippe Coutinho by accepting a £142m transfer offer from Barcelona for the attacking midfielder. Coutinho was Liverpool’s best player, another talisman, but the deal was done and the transfer fee reinvested in moves for Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

Those three deals proved the catalyst for Liverpool’s period of success under Klopp, as the team delivered every major trophy they contested from 2018 to 2022. A seemingly unpalatable transfer of a star player turned out to be one of the best decisions ever taken by the club.

Salah is a bigger, brighter star than Coutinho ever was on Merseyside, but he is also 31. Coutinho was 25 when he left Anfield for Camp Nou and theoretically was approaching his peak years, but Salah has had his prime time at Liverpool and won everything there is to win. What else can he deliver to justify the decision to reject the massive transfer fee on offer from Al Ittihad?

Much of Liverpool’s decision is down to the club’s status as one of the biggest in the world and the message it would send if they accepted that even their best player is available to the highest bidder. The world’s top clubs don’t part with their best players unless it is on their terms, so Liverpool have had to project their strength by rebuffing Al Ittihad’s approach. Yet if Al Ittihad return with a £175m offer or go as high as £200m before Thursday’s deadline, that might just be a tipping point whereby long-term benefit outweighs short-term pain.

Liverpool banked £54.5m in Champions League prize money last season after reaching the round of 16. By winning the competition, Manchester City received £117.2m, so the sheer magnitude of the Salah offer is obvious.

Yes, Klopp would be without his best forward this season if Salah was allowed to leave — Darwin Núñez, Cody Gakpo, Luis Díaz and Diogo Jota have all shown the ability to score in his absence — but the opportunity to invest that money could provide the foundations of another great team at Anfield.

That’s why another Al Ittihad offer could be too good to turn down. Business sense would also make football sense, and Salah’s final contribution to Liverpool could be a financial windfall that secures a golden future.

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