Egypt's Salah eager to succeed where his peers failed

Hatem Maher, Tuesday 3 Dec 2013

Egypt's prodigy Salah has reportedly attracted interest from several high-profile European outfits, but he will have to overcome the obstacles which haunted some of his countrymen if he is to make a bigger impact

Mohamed Salah
FC Basel's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring against Chelsea's during their Champions League Group E soccer match at St. Jakob-Park in Basel November 26, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Mohamed Salah's eye-catching displays are mainly down to his tricky skills but other off-field factors may play a more crucial role in determining his longevity in the unpredictable world of football.

The Egyptian prodigy stole the limelight with a series of impressive performances for FC Basel, making the most of his pace and low centre of gravity to scamper around the pitch and leave his markers chasing shadows, becoming the Swiss league's best player.

His recent superb run, which included two goals against Chelsea as Basel completed a remarkable double over their English opponents in the European Champions League, fuelled reports that he may make bigger move in the near future, with Tottenham Hotspur apparently leading the chase to sign him.

Two things are for sure.

He will definitely be proud to play in a tougher and physically demanding competition such as the elite Premier League but he will also be cautious not to get carried away, because when some of his countrymen did so, they ended up letting stardom slip from their grasps.

Salah has so far showed no signs of the off-field antics that haunted some of his compatriots, most notably Amr Zaki who took the English Premier League by storm after joining Wigan Athletic a few years ago but was left to rue his own actions that incurred the wrath of his coach and eventually sealed his fate.

"I would be very happy to play in the Premier League, definitely," the 21-year-old said in a television interview after being named as the best player in the Swiss league, having steered Basel to their fourth consecutive title last season.

"I'm hoping to maintain my current form and help in improving the image of the Egyptian and Arab players in Europe."

Former Egypt striker Mido played for a handful of prominent European clubs including AS Roma, Tottenham and Marseille but some disciplinary and weight problems, thanks to a largely unhealthy lifestyle, prematurely ended his nomadic adventure.

Zaki failed to live up to his potential at Wigan due to some amateurish acts that included feigning excuses to prolong his stay in Egypt during international breaks.

"Congratulations for Salah, he deserves to be named the Swiss league best player. I hope he would maintain his great form and move to a bigger European club soon," Zaki said on Twitter, apparently wishing that the promising winger would not follow in his footsteps.

Basel coach Murat Yakin lavishes constant praise on Salah, with his criticism restricted to mere footballing matters such as the player's profligacy in front of goal.

Maturity

The former Arab Contractors forward, who scored 10 goals for Basel so far this season, has also showed signs of maturity, keeping his feet on the ground amid an intense media spotlight following his exploits.

Instead of following a typical pattern of big-dreaming Egyptian footballers, he said he would rather take it one stage at a time to avoid a sudden slump that may cost him dearly.

"I'll wait and see what happens at the end of the year. If there are no good offers, I will wait until the summer to decide," the media-shy Salah added.

"But anyway, I don't want to speak about the possibility of joining a very big club. I only want a good club where I can play and make progress. Joining a high-profile side and failing to play regularly would be the worst thing to do.

"I don't want to fall. It's necessary to be cautious and take things gradually."

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