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Contract talks & the Ballon d’Or – What it’s really like to interview Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah rarely speaks to the British media and at a time when contract talks are dominating discussion, This Is Anfield got the inside track on what it is like to interview the No. 11.

Salah’s name has been constantly grabbing headlines this season, whether for his on-field prowess, which has seen a return of 30 goals so far, or the ongoing chatter regarding his future.

In April, an extensive interview with Salah by FourFourTwo was released, with the Egyptian drawn into further comments regarding his ongoing contract talks.

“I think the fans know what I want, but in the contract, it’s not everything about the money at all,” Salah told FourFourTwo‘s Chris Flanagan in early April, from the comfort of his own home.

It was just one of his intriguing comments regarding his future, his ambitions, his longevity in the game and the glittering journey undertaken at Anfield.

And This Is Anfield received the inside track on the experience of interviewing Salah and how he, and his words, came across from Flanagan himself.

 

Salah has very rarely spoken with British media so firstly tell us about how he was, what was he like to interview?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, April 12, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg game between Liverpool FC and SL Benfica. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He was very nice – we spoke shortly after Liverpool’s win over Watford so he was in a very good mood, at home with his family, and we had a really pleasant chat.

He was very polite throughout, open to chatting about various different subjects, and even shared some humorous memories, like the time when Liverpool won the league and he said he was the only player at the hotel that night who was actually supporting Manchester City to beat Chelsea – because he wanted to win the title on the pitch with a Liverpool victory.

Throughout our chat, I got a real sense of how proud he is about everything he’s already achieved during his time at Liverpool so far, and what the club means to him.

 

So he was pretty relaxed about his future, you’d say?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 13, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah reacts as his goal is disallowed for off-side during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg game between Liverpool FC and SL Benfica at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He seemed very relaxed about everything, including his future. I’m sure in an ideal world he would have preferred to have already got a new deal signed and sealed, but I didn’t get a sense he was stressed about it, in fact, I specifically asked him whether he was worried about the prospect of potentially going into the last year of his contract without the situation being resolved, and he insisted he wasn’t.

I got the sense that his number one aim is absolutely to stay at the club, but that he was prepared to wait a little longer to get the best deal possible, if that’s what it takes. That’s all part of how negotiations work, but he was quite clear that he wants to stay, even if he couldn’t 100 percent guarantee he will at this stage because talks are still ongoing.

 

In the interview, he says that the fans know what he wants, and it’s not everything about money. Any idea or thoughts on what it is that he does want?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, April 19, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think when he said ‘the fans know what I want’, he was referring to the fact that he wants to stay at the club and renew his contract, which he’s alluded to previously and confirmed again in this interview. His added quote that it wasn’t all about money was interesting, as it was unprompted – I’d asked him how he saw his future, but my question hadn’t mentioned money. I suspect that was something he wanted to say and make clear, as he’ll no doubt be aware that during any contract negotiation, the player is often viewed as being only focused on money.

He was keen to make clear that these negotiations aren’t only about finances – he said that he couldn’t outline the exact situation, and I can’t personally claim to be privy to any definitive information about the talks, but my best guess was that he might have been alluding to the length of contract that’s being discussed. That would fit with other things he said, like his desire to break Ian Rush’s club goal record one day – that will take a few years.

We also talked about him turning 30 soon, and he went out of his way to list seven or eight top players who are still playing at a very high level well into their 30s. To me, that again seemed to be making a subtle point that he’ll still be a top player for several years yet, which would fit with a possible desire for a long contract.

 

He also speaks of his ambitions to win the Ballon d’Or, do you get the impression that he thinks he can achieve that at Liverpool, or that he’ll need to move in order to get that recognition?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, April 19, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Not only did I get the impression he thinks he can achieve that at Liverpool, but I also got the impression he thinks he can achieve it this year. At one point he made a quip that if Liverpool win both the Premier League and the Champions League this season, that would win him the Ballon d’Or. It was said with a laugh, as of course, he can’t be certain that he’d win it, but I think that joke was an insight into his thoughts at the moment – that these last few weeks of the season could give him a huge chance to win the award, if it goes well for Liverpool and for him.

He’s sometimes tried to play down his desire to win the Ballon d’Or in the past, but he made it pretty clear in this interview that given the opportunity, he really wants to win it.

 

How did the interview come about? It must have taken a lot of planning?

The interview was arranged via Adidas, who have a partnership with Salah and who we’ve worked with on several big interviews in the past with various top players. We started conversations with them earlier in the season about our interest in interviewing Salah and putting him on the cover of our magazine – sometimes with top players it can take a little while to come to fruition, as their schedules are incredibly busy, not least for Salah this season, with the Africa Cup of Nations also in the middle of the season.

So understandably it did take a lot of planning to find the right moment to put a photoshoot together and have an in-depth chat with him about his time at Liverpool so far, but I think it all worked out really nicely.

 

Once you had the interview boxed off, what was the process like for putting it together ready for the magazine?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 13, 2022: Supporters walk past a mural of Liverpool's Mohamed Salah before the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg game between Liverpool FC and SL Benfica at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Enjoyable – I wrote it up into an 11-page feature for the magazine, also including some really nice photography from our photoshoot. We wanted to use the interview to tell the story of his time at Liverpool so far, and his journey to becoming both a Liverpool legend and arguably the best player in the world, so there’s plenty more in the interview besides the talk about his future and the Ballon d’Or.

Among many other things in a long chat, he also talked about the two Champions League finals in Kyiv and Madrid, the Premier League title races he’s had at the club, and chose his favourite Liverpool goals, which I found interesting – they weren’t necessarily the goals I was expecting him to choose.

 

And finally, tell readers how they can get their hands on the magazine!

I hope people enjoy the feature – if you’d like to read our interview with Mo, the magazine is now on sale in the shops and is available to order online now here!

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