With affirmative news today that Saido Mane, in many ways the star of Liverpool’s campaign last season, will be out until the end of July and therefore little time to get match-fit before the Reds travel south to Vicarage Road to kick-start their league campaign against Watford, fantasy managers across the world will be turning their attention to Liverpool’s marquee signing of the summer, Mohamed Salah.
Indeed, non-fantasy football playing Liverpool fans will also be eager to see how the Egyptian settles in throughout pre-season, once issues with his visa have been allayed.
The 25 year-old is expected to slot in as a right forward, the position that saw the left-footer amass a staggering 15 goals and 13 assists in 31 Serie A appearances for AS Roma last year.
The result was a 31.1% involvement in Roma’s league goals last year, more than the 26.9% and 25.6% his new teammates Philippe Coutinho and Saido Mane, respectively, were involved in at Liverpool
It should be noted that the latter two were impeded somewhat by injury, although Salah’s arrival will surely diminish Coutinho’s appeal if it means the Brazilian is forced to take up a less attacking role next season to make way for the £34m man.
With Roberto Firmino being reclassified as a striker for the upcoming campaign, suffice it to say that his 28.2% involvement last year shows that his services have not been rendered totally vestigial for the fantasy manager.
To put it bluntly, I find the whole debate unnecessary. As far as I am concerned, merely dipping his toes into the Premier League when he was 21 is hardly cause for concern. He arrived in the January of 2013, featuring ten times throughout the remainder of the season, registering just two full 90 minute games (where, it should be noted, he scored one of his two goals for the season and made both of his assists in the same game against Stoke). He scored two and assisted two in 500 minutes of football, five of his ten appearances lasting for less than half a game. As for the 2014/15 campaign he played half an hour of football in total before being loaned to Fiorentina where he instantly made an impact, scoring six and assisting three in 16 appearances.
The only cause for concern here then is that held by Jose Mourinho for it looks like the Manchester United boss will be needing to buy some fresh ink to add Salah to the list of players he moved on before they reached their potential. Salah can only be optimistic about the future with Arjen Robben, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku already scrawled on that list.
The 25 year-old has had back-to-back impressive campaigns for Roma; his 2016/17 campaign is underpinned by 14 goals and eight assists for the season before it, a 26.5% involvement in the team’s goals. This instant impact is perhaps even more remarkable after his year of professional bench-warming at Chelsea with a lack of game time. Two years of first team football in what has become a very competitive league with Atalanta finishing fourth this year, nestling themselves between Serie A giants, can only be a good thing for Salah’s career and Liverpool’s future.
At £9.0m he will set you back as much as Coutinho, both being £0.5m less than Mane. Depending on how Klopp tackles his abundance of midfielders in the pre-season friendlies, whose value for the fantasy manager is annoyingly hampered somewhat by Mane’s injury, Mane is probably the safest option. But who plays fantasy to play it safe?