Before Mohamed Salah was the world-conquering No. 11 at Liverpool, he was making his way through Europe with Basel and shining for Egypt at the Olympics.
Salah is now rightly considered one of the best players in world football, and recently signed a new three-year contract that makes him Liverpool’s highest-ever earner.
It has been a long journey for the Egyptian, though, with his move to Anfield in 2017 the second attempt he has made to establish himself in England.
Before then, though, Salah was making his name with Basel in Switzerland, on the back of a series of displays at the 2012 Olympics that earned him international recognition.
Fifteen nations were invited to join hosts Great Britain in the men’s tournament, with Egypt drawn in a group with Brazil, Belarus and New Zealand.
Footage of Salah’s 45-minute cameo against Brazil in Cardiff has now gone viral, with the 20-year-old catching the eye:
Mohamed Salah vs Brazil (2012)
— Salah Central (@SalahCentral) July 16, 2022
One of the opening games of Group C, Egypt took on a star-studded Brazil side including Thiago Silva, Marcelo, Neymar, Oscar and Hulk, with Salah named on the bench.
Brazil were 3-0 up by the time he was sent on, replacing Marwan Mohsen at the break following goals from Rafael, Leandro Damiao and Neymar.
While it may be an over-exaggeration to claim that Salah changed the game, his introduction certainly helped turn the tide in Egypt’s favour, as he tore Marcelo apart on the right flank.
Mohamed Aboutrika clawed one back with an instinctive finish following a free-kick, before a clean-shaven Salah made it 3-2 with 15 minutes to play, thwarting Juan Jesus and Marcelo and firing past Neto.
Brazil held on for the victory, but both nations eventually progressed to the quarter-finals, where Egypt went on to lose 3-0 to Japan.
Salah scored in each of the three group games, including the equaliser in front of 50,000 fans at Old Trafford as Egypt clawed back for a 1-1 draw with New Zealand, finishing the tournament as joint-fourth highest goalscorer.
It was a star-making Olympics in many ways, with Salah subsequently named CAF’s Most Promising African Talent of the Year before embarking on a formative year-and-a-half with Basel.