For the amateur body language experts, the opportunity to analyse Mohamed Salah’s latest goal celebration was manna-from-Heaven given the circumstances.
The Egyptian’s second of the campaign came at the Kop End on Sunday as he finished off a Darwin Nunez flick-on from an Andy Robertson corner to round off a relatively comfortable 3-0 win over Aston Villa. It was his 188th for the Reds, but the major question remains: will it be his last?
That, in the immediate aftermath of the goal, was what many attempted to try and decipher. There was no major outpouring of emotion from Salah and his finish was greeted with the sort of muted reaction that surely would have been more animated had he thought it could be his final significant act in front of his adoring public.
The subdued celebration, in fact, only gave further credence to the idea that Salah knows there will be bigger and better goals to come from him yet before he walks away as Liverpool’s most prolific marksman of the Premier League era.
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For the players themselves, they are steadfast in their insistence that Al-Ittihad’s interest will not result in a departure of their most potent goal threat. Not yet, at least.
“For us there is no concern,” claimed Andy Robertson after Sunday’s win. “For us Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player and we believe that is what is going to be the case for the foreseeable future.
“The club position was that it knocked it back, it rejected the bid and that is what the stance was. For me Mo has been Mo all well. He’s not been affected, I’ve been around him a lot and he’s not been affected by anything.”
That insistence from Robertson tallied with what Dominik Szoboszlai revealed, post-match, when he stated that Salah had already told his colleagues he would be staying put.
“We speak between each other,” Szoboszlai said. “He wants to stay here, he wants to be here, he wants to stay with us. At the end, he stayed and that’s great news. He’s a top player.”
And while Jurgen Klopp stopped short of saying Salah had relaid similar sentiments to him, the Reds boss was in no mood to concede ground on his now long-term stance that the No.11 is simply not for sale.
Klopp said: “He speaks with his training and performances and behaviour. We had meetings this week, and the meetings were not about what we did in the past, it was about what we will do in the future.
“Mo was with the players’ (leadership) committee and had his moments where he was talking and it was nothing like ‘by the way, this is only until next week’ or whatever.”
His latest feat means he has now scored in 150 of his 309 Liverpool games, strengthening his position as fifth on the all-time list of scorers for the Reds. It was his 10th goal contribution in as many games at Anfield also.
What happens next in the boardroom of Saudi Pro League champions, Al-Ittihad, will be fascinating. The instant rejection of that £150m bid by FSG president Mike Gordon on Thursday evening will surely not be the end of this saga with reports in the Middle East suggesting the offer is set to be upped to £200m.
If the fee of £150m was turned down, however, the question is how much appetite there is from Liverpool’s end to agree to an extra £50m. With Salah a part of a fearsome five-man frontline department at Anfield, it seems unrealistic that his departure will pave the way for more than one addition to the strikeforce. There is simply no room at the inn.
But given the ludicrous output of the 31-year-old, there is a legitimate argument to suggest there is no direct replacement who would be anywhere near adequate enough to soothe a supporter-base who would likely be furious at losing him. Salah breathes rarefied air as far as goalscoring greats go in the modern game. He is simply irreplaceable in that respect, particularly for a club with Liverpool’s operating model.
If Salah is a player who is being flustered by the ongoing and intense daily speculation surrounding his next move – chatter that, it must be stressed, is emanating almost exclusively from Saudi Arabia – he did not show it on Sunday afternoon as he waltzed past a handful of journalists looking like a man without a care in the world.
As usual, the requests for a few minutes of his time were politely turned down but he was unable to suppress his laughter as he came through the mixed zone area sporting a huge grin. It looked like transfer speculation was furthest from his thinking as he continued his now long-running and friendly evading of the local press.
That interaction, perhaps more than any of the talking on either party’s side, spoke loudest. Liverpool might have a few more days before they can breathe easy where their star man’s future is concerned, but the clues are certainly positive ones for Reds fans.