Alessandro Florenzi, Ricky Gervinho, Juan Manuel Iturbe, Victor Ibarbo, Iago Falque, Adem Ljajić; all players who have, can, and/or will play as a winger for Roma. The first of that list being our homegrown boy now deployed as a rightback, to the snaking Gervinho, the prosperous Iturbe, defensive stronghold of Victor, dynamic newcomer Iago, and the sporadic greatness of Adem. Yes, all good wingers, who will do fine at Roma. The last thing one would think was that Roma needed another winger, especially considering the gaping holes on the squad in the wingbacks. A sour taste was left in the mouth of the fans, as it seemed a so-so attack would lead the 15/16 season.
Roma was always was missing that decisive game changer though; the wing forward who would put the opponent up against the wall, and make them beg to stop; a real coup de grace player. Just this week, it was confirmed that Sabatini may have secured the winger to lead Roma out of mediocrity and into greatness. His name is the Pharaoh, Mohamed Salah.
Mo’s story is transient, and as of recently, a bit legally complicated, and I will briefly touch on it in the next two paragraphs: As an 18 year old, Mo stated his claim, and became a started for Egyptian first league team El Mokawloon. During the Arab Spring of 2011/12, the league was then cancelled for its remainder. A quick move to Swiss dynamos Basel for the 2012/13 season saw Mo rise on the world stage. He impressed Chelsea in a defeat to Basel, but found himself in hot water for refusing to shake the hands of Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv. He was urged by Egyptian voices not to travel to the Zionist state, and called the incident merely a coincidence. It was indeed a sticky situation.
On October 18th, 2013, he scored a great breakaway goal against Chelsea in the Champions League. Not so ironically, Chelsea then purchased him that following winter of 2014, for 15.5m euros. Just 3 starts saw Salah head to Fiorentina on loan on deadline day, February 2nd, 2015. 6 goals and 3 assists in just 10 starts and 6 substitutions saw Mohamed become one of Fiorentina’s most important players. A contract issue over his obligated extension remains a legal issue for Fiorentina and Chelsea, but Roma look to be legally sound with his arrival.
Back to today: Salah is officially a Roma player, with a 5m euro loan fee, and option to buy for another 15m euros at the conclusion of this season. What he brings is evident by Jose Mourinho’s opinion: “He’s young, he’s fast, he’s creative, he’s enthusiastic. When we analyzed him, he looks like the kind of humbled personality on the pitch, ready to work for the team.” Further, Jose compared his qualities to that of his past player, Dutch hotshot Arjen Robben. Wikipedia will tell you that Mo is renowned for his flair, creativity, and ball control; I can’t disagree.
In today’s 1-3 win over Valencia, a shaky Roman backline was not enough to keep Mo from scoring on his debut. Just 8 minutes into the match, a pass from Pjanić, stupendous flick on from Totti, and two shots from Gervinho off the post fell right into his lap, for a goal. The perfect start, the perfect play. Check it out here.
I have the feeling, I believe that this is the start of something big. Now combined with Edin Dzeko, Frank, Gervais, and the rest of the motley crew, Mohamed can start something big. It may be a bit too early to call it, but I have a feeling that Mohamed Salah will become our Pharaoh on the Tiber.
Edit: Since this article was written, Salah was a catalyst in Roma’s Opening Day match against Sevilla, helping the team climb to 6-0 before the Spaniards’ comeback after the many substitutions.