Mohamed Salah‘s former coach has spoken of how he “destroyed everything” one day in training to show everyone what he was capable of—and how questions over Mo’s mentality made him wonder if he could make it at the very top.
Suffice to say, any questions over Salah’s ability and mentality have been answered in style over the last few years.
Two goal-laden campaigns with the Reds, including a Champions League final goal and winner’s medal, have put that argument to bed—as have back-to-back Golden Boot awards domestically.
It wasn’t always like this, though, with Salah going through a few tough times earlier in his career, notably at Chelsea but also after switching El Mokawloon in Egypt for the Swiss side Basel.
Heiko Vogel spoke to Goal.com about his time at St. Jakob-Park and players he coached, which included current Liverpool winger Xherdan Shaqiri, Arsenal‘s Granit Xhaka and, of course, Salah, who he has always been impressed with the personality of.
“If you knew him…he is not a world star, he has such a gentle character,” Vogel said. “It was always clear to me that he is an outstanding player, but whether he had the mentality? I didn’t know that exactly. Momo is a gentle killer.”
Vogel spoke of how impressed he was with the “openness, that curiosity and…humility” that Salah showed upon his arrival to the Swiss club, and also revealed how it took a couple of days for the attacker to show his real worth.
The upheaval of changing country, club, training regime and everything else perhaps took it out of Mo initially, resulting in an unconvincing first couple of training sessions—but then he exploded.
“He had everything – the speed, the finish, the left foot – and that wasn’t overlooked.
“[We said] ‘Listen, just train as you like – we’ve already made our decision anyway’. Then he trained on the first day; everyone watched the session and we wondered if he might have a twin brother.
“The second day was a bit better, but not good. [We] had already been talking him up for the tiniest things, saying stuff like: ‘did you see that pass?’. And then came the third day. It was then that he destroyed everything, he was really unstoppable.
“I have rarely seen such a dominant appearance in two-on-five [on that third day]. It was absolutely extraordinary. He was so agile, so explosive. If he had the ball on his left foot, it was a goal. But Momo always had an eye for his team-mates as well.
“After that performance everyone knew why we wanted to sign him.”
Salah spent two seasons with Basel, scoring 10 goals in each campaign across all competitions.
From there he joined Chelsea, spent a year with Fiorentina on loan and then switched to AS Roma—from where Liverpool signed him for a then-club record fee.
With 74 goals in 109 games since then, Salah has proven an incredible acquisition and has made himself known as one of the best forwards in the game.
But that character and “gentle” personality has also shown through in off-pitch scenarios, with Salah lauded for his charity work and willingness to stand up for others.