Mo Salah has had an excellent 2017. Taking a prominent role in helping his country to a first World Cup in 28 years, he cemented his place in Egyptian footballing folklore, but on top of that, he has been on fire since joining Liverpool in the summer from Roma.
In the process of winning the BBC’s award, a highly-rated gong, he received the highest amount of votes in the history of the 17 year-old competition, highlighting his popularity in the footballing world.
But what exactly are the key factors that vindicate Salah’s win?
One area that needs exploring is his performances for the National Team, with the above term “prominent role” doing Salah’s displays in qualifying for Russia no justice.
After coming oh-so close to glory in the African Cup of Nations at the turn of the year, losing in the final to an 88th minute Vincent Aboubakar winner, Salah and his teammates provided the perfect tonic by securing Egypt’s place at the World Cup for the first time in almost three decades.
The winger played a part in all seven of the Pharaohs’ goals in qualification – grabbing five goals himself, including the vital penalty against Congo, as well as setting up another two.
To put that achievement into perspective, the last time Egypt featured on the biggest stage, Salah wasn’t even born.
In comparison to the only other two Egyptians to have won the Beeb’s award, Salah is the only one of the trio to claim the award whilst plying his trade outside of their homeland.
2005’s winner, Mohamed Baraket, earnt the award for his performances during domestic giant Al Ahly’s legendary 55-game unbeaten run, whilst the last Pharaoh to claim the prize, Mohamed Aboutrika in 2008, did so again for domestic displays for Al-Ahly, but mainly for grabbing the winner in the African Cup of Nations.
Whilst their feats were impressive, neither comes close to Salah’s contribution – and we’ve only looked at his efforts for his country over the past year.
Top of the League
When Liverpool splashed a reported €42m, potentially rising to €50m, to secure his signature from Roma, few predicted the impact the 25-year old would have on the Premier League.
As of writing, Salah sits atop of the Premier League scoring charts, boasting 13 goals in 16 league appearances.
Combined with his five strikes in the Champions League and the nine goals he garnered in his final appearances for Roma, Salah boasts a total of 27 goals at club level in 2017 – no mean feat with the majority of his game time coming on the wing.
Whilst Salah has done all of his talking on the pitch – the evidence above supporting that statement, there is a reason why the wideman received the most votes of any nominee in the award’s history – the simple fact Egyptian fans typically turn out in droves to vote in online polls.
This award is fairly unique in the fact that it is entirely decided by a public vote, although to insinuate that Salah only won the award due to a mass fanbase is a ridiculous claim – but it remains to be seen if this accolade will be reinforced by the CAF’s Player of the Year trophy, with the winner announced in the New Year.
Another aspect to consider is Salah’s competitors. The usual suspects at the forefront of the African game, such as Yaya Toure and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (selected for the top five for the fifth consecutive time) had iffy seasons – Aubameyang’s 2017 petered out in the latter months when his club side Borussia Dortmund slumped.
However 35 goals for Dortmund indicated he would be a favourite, but it appears that two factors helped Salah edge out as winner- recent form a huge factor, but also performances on an international level.
Salah’s Liverpool teammate Saido Mane had fans clamouring with his performances, and he also helped his international side to the World Cup finals- only in less noteworthy fashion than his clubmate.
Speaking of Liverpool teammates, Mane and Salah’s future teammate Naby Keita was also nominated, but his case was arguably the weakest amongst the five, despite winning the best midfielder award in the Bundesliga and securing the largest transfer fee for an African player prior to his summer switch to Anfield.
All in all, Mo Salah is a worthy winner and hopefully he will light up the world stage when the Pharaohs attend the World Cup in Russia.