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Can Salah fit in at Chelsea this season?
Ever since the takeover of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, the club have been busy in every transfer window, especially during the summers. The departure of defender David Luiz to Paris Saint-Germain paved the way for the likes of superstars Cesc Fàbregas from Barcelona as well as Diego Costa and Felipe LuÍs from Atlético Madrid. With the new arrivals and already established players, the competition significantly increases, especially in the midfield. This leaves us to ponder on the question, where will Egypt’s Mohamed Salah fit in at Chelsea this season?
Many questioned the 22-year-old Egyptian’s decision to join the Blues, as they felt he would not be a regular. Just before the deadline in this year’s winter transfer window, Chelsea snatched Salah from Liverpool’s hands; signing the winger from FC Basel for over €13 million. His first half season with Chelsea was deemed to be pretty light by his standards. He really never played enough minutes (averaging just under 50 minutes in his 11 appearances), but he did manage to start the final six consecutive games of the season, with Eden Hazard sidelined for three weeks with an injury. In the time that Chelsea manager, José Mourinho, gave Salah minutes, the Egyptian quickly saw how tough Premier League opponents were. However, Salah did manage to score 2 goals in his 11 appearances – including one at Stamford Bridge against London rivals Arsenal. It won’t be any easier for him as Chelsea have added even more depth to the midfield, even more so than last season’s squad. He’ll need to show flashes of himself at Basel – and further excel – in order to solidify a starting spot at the club.
Salah, who reported back to training during the early stages of the World Cup, really has his work cut out for him. Even with his talent and speed he has competition from a stacked midfield with many options to choose from. To Salah’s advantage, his direct competition including midfielders Hazard (Belgium), Willian and Ramires (Brazil), and recently crowned World Cup champion André Schürrle (Germany), all represented their respective nations at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Due to their participation in the competition, Mourinho gave the four of them extended time off up until the August fixtures. This was an opportunity for Salah to showcase himself in front of the Chelsea staff first hand. Mourinho gave the young Pharaoh 7 out of 10 starts as he notched two goals. The Special One is no stranger to expressing his faith in Salah, as he did back in February, tipping the Egyptian to shine this year.
“So I think Mohamed needs six months to adapt our game and the demands of the Premier League. I am calm and I’m telling him he has time because we have confidence in him. I think next season [2014/2015] is Mohamed Salah’s breakthrough season,” said Mourinho.
We are now at the six months mark as it is finally Salah’s time. You would hope that his mentality is to not be content at his current position, but to become a starter; not only for the sake of his career but for the sake of the Egyptian national team, where he could potentially be a future captain. Salah is undoubtedly a hero in his native Egypt, but Egyptians players’ careers have a bad history of diminishing once they go overseas, especially in England. The likes of Mido, who could never establish himself in a squad retired at an early age and Amr Zaki, now playing in Lebanon, barely even lasted just over a year.
As the English Premier League kick-offs this weekend, it is safe to say that the early part of this season is crucial to Salah’s career at Chelsea; otherwise it could be over as early as the January transfer window. The Egyptian’s ambitions are very high, however, as he is aiming to become the first Pharaoh to win the Premier League and the Champions League, as he revealed in a recent interview with the club.
“The aim is for us to win the Premier League and Champions League,” Salah said. “It’s important for a club like Chelsea to challenge for every competition we enter and hopefully we can do that.
“In terms of myself, I don’t usually like to set too many targets but I just want to improve as a player as much as I can and help my team-mates become successful.”
The Blues’ opening Premier League match will be away to Burnley on Monday, 18 August.