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Mohamed Salah’s real price and the £150m truth Saudi Arabia will not like



Mohamed Salah's real price and the £150m truth Saudi Arabia will not like

Liverpool have already rejected a £150m bid from Saudi side Al-Ittihad for talismanic Mohamed Salah

In years previous the closing of the transfer window would have signalled a collective sigh of relief for clubs wanting to hang on to their top talent.

The summer deadline passed last night at 11pm, with Liverpool active into the final hours as they secured the £34.2m signing of 21-year-old Dutch midfielder Ryan Gravenberch on a five-year deal from German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

While clubs the size of Liverpool are usually the predators in the market, not the prey, the remarkable levels of spending seen in this summer transfer window by teams in the Saudi Arabian Pro League, whose four major teams are being backed in their aggressive spending by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of the Gulf nation and owners of Newcastle United, has meant that every possibility has remained on the table.

The Saudi window closes on September 7, meaning that SPL clubs have the best part of a week to continue to wheel and deal and further raise the profile of the league, which is attempting to become one of the world’s best as the Saudi government continues its plan to change the worldview of the country and diversify its revenue streams away from just the traditional oil and gas.

Players such as Karim Benzema, Neymar, Riyad Mahrez, Gabri Veiga and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic have all arrived at one of the big four clubs, not to mention the signings of former Liverpool heroes Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq), Fabinho (Al-Ittihad) and Roberto Firmino (Al-Ahli).

The final days will continue to see the SPL add to their summer spree, with Reds legend Mohamed Salah at the top of the wishlist.

Al-Ittihad have already seen a £150m bid for Salah, 31, rejected out of hand by Liverpool. The Reds are understood to be adamant that the Egyptian is going nowhere and they have deemed the matter to be closed. But this is football and these are not normal times, and there is the expectation that the limitless wealth of the PIF will be back to test the Reds’ resolve further before the September 7 deadline, with figures of £200m suggested.

There is, of course, a figure that simply cannot be turned down for Liverpool. Salah, who signed a new deal in the summer of 2022, remains the Reds most potent offensive weapon but he will be 32 by next summer and attention will have to turn at some stage to what comes next and how they go about finding the next incarnation of Salah, a task that will be remarkably difficult given the impact that he has had at Anfield.

But for now Liverpool are holding firm. There are reasons both financial and competitive for them doing so, even if the £150m, which was made up of £100m guaranteed and £50m in add-ons, may seem like a deal that makes sense on some level.

Liverpool are in the Europa League this year after finishing fifth in the Premier League in 2022/23. The goal for this season, at a minimum, is to make sure that they return to the top four and secure a Champions League spot next season. Financially for the Reds being a part of European football’s most glittering club competition has become hugely important to their business plan and growth. On more than one occasion the Reds have claimed more than £100m in prize money and broadcast revenues from the Champions League for runs deep into the competition, that is some £65/£70m more than would be available for lifting the Europa League.

In order to achieve that very important goal of Champions League football it is vital that they give themselves the competitive advantage, and keeping hold of their most creative and talismanic player in Salah improves their chances of that dramatically. To lose him now, with any money received entirely useless until the window opens in January with no chance to source a replacement, would hobble their chances of delivering on the important aims for this season.

It is also important to note that from 2024 the Champions League becomes even more valuable to clubs through its expanded ‘Swiss Model’ format, where there will be more games, meaning more prize money and broadcast revenue, as well as more chances to earn matchday revenue and opportunities for commercial success through greater exposure for partner brands, which in turn helps to provide greater leverage when negotiating commercial deals. Liverpool won’t want to be on the outside looking in when it comes to next season’s competition.

Then there is the fact that if they get big money for Salah they will find the market inflated further. In a similar way to the car market in recent times, where people have been delighted to see the value of their cars rise and sold at a profit only to realise it now costs a lot more to replace them and unless you are downgrading and pocketing the cash it is rather pointless, Liverpool will find that finding a replacement that can even come close to having a Salah ceiling will be hugely expensive, in transfer fees, wages and agents fees. Clubs will know Liverpool have cash and an air of desperation in terms of having to be seen to make a big splash with the money, and that will be reflected in price in the same way that Chelsea’s carefree spending has only served to ramp up the market for themselves.

So, there are two considerations. Then comes Salah himself and realising just how impactful he is as an athlete.

Liverpool have plenty of stars. But when it comes to superstars they truly have one, and that is Salah. He is not only one of the most recognisable footballers in the world, he is one of the most recognisable athletes across sport. He is the most prominent Muslim athlete and he gives Liverpool commercial leverage in different markets and territories, as well as playing a significant role in helping them grow brand awareness and attract new fans in the MENA region and beyond.

That star power doesn’t last forever, of course, and he is getting older. But he is still elite, he still delivers and he will continue to do so for some time yet, and there are financial benefits to keeping him in Liverpool red, especially with the club’s growth plans across the globe.

Football right now is going through another cycle of change and as new generations latch on to the game they consume it in different ways. While success on the pitch is extremely important, so too is having players that are globally recognisable and can draw in new fans. Salah is one of those rare players that can manage that. If Liverpool wanted to replace that kind of marketability there is precious little scope to do so, and if they did it would cost more than £150m.

With all the above considered, the facts are clear for Liverpool – and for Saudi Arabia. The potential loss of revenue from failing to make the Champions League, no time to find a replacement and how cost prohibitive that would be, the commercial impact and the impact on the Reds’ brand growth plans at a key time, the £150m can be seen in a different light. It probably isn’t close to being enough.

That may seem somewhat of a silly claim for a player who will command less money next summer, when the SPL will undoubtedly try again. But he will still be a £100m player for the Reds then regardless, and if he helps them achieve Champions League football and they can plan ahead of time for what comes next, it makes the transition far smoother for Liverpool.

Salah being sold in this window makes no sense for Liverpool, and the club and owners Fenway Sports Group will know that. The question will be just how high and how silly the number gets before it becomes a question of simply having to financially given that all potential costs have been baked in.

Liverpool have leverage here, they hold his registration, they don’t want to sell him, they don’t have to sell him and he seemingly doesn’t want to go. He won’t be at Anfield forever, but they need him now, competitively and financially.

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