Liverpool are “lucky” to be reaping the rewards of a matured Mohamed Salah at Anfield, according to manager Jurgen Klopp.
Salah was named Footballer of the Year ahead of Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne by the Football Writers’ Association on Tuesday, adding to his Professional Footballers’ Association Players’ Player of the Year award.
The Egypt international has hit 43 goals in all competitions since signing from Roma for an initial €42 million, with the 25-year-old on track to beat Tottenham’s Harry Kane to the Premier League Golden Boot.
Salah scored twice and recorded two assists as Liverpool beat his old club Roma 5-2 in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final, with the Stadio Olimpico hosting the return match on Wednesday.
And Klopp refused to take credit for the stunning campaign enjoyed by Salah, who did not make the grade during a previous Premier League spell at Chelsea.
“He has matured and got confidence,” Klopp told reporters. “He came from Chelsea and had a good season in Florence [on loan at Fiorentina]. Now he grew up and we are the lucky guys to have him in the team. It’s nothing I explained to him.
“Each striker doesn’t start as an 18-year-old as a goal-getter, he has to make his own experiences and that’s what Mo did in his journey, carrying that responsibility of a whole country from Egypt.
“He is quite cool with it. He has good team-mates, they love helping him and they love how they help him.”
Klopp accepted Salah is not given as much defensive responsibility as attacking colleagues Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, although the German stressed the forward has to stay high up the pitch to be a threat on the counter-attack.
“Each player has to do different jobs, each attacking player has to defend, he is doing that, but does Roberto or Sadio defend more? Yeah. They do,” Klopp said. “But if Roberto is around he sends Mo up front and tells him ‘I close the gate, wait there, I bring you the ball’.
“It’s not that he does not have defensive duties. Even if you defend with everyone it doesn’t mean everyone is in your own box. You need options when you win the ball and that’s what Mo is doing pretty well and is why we changed the system at [Manchester] City in the first half [of the Champions League quarter-final second leg].
“He’s not free of duties but is involved in defending, others are more involved, it’s true.”