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All Liverpool fans want for Christmas is a new contract for Mo Salah

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Long gone are the days when Liverpool players were called to Peter Robinson’s office to find new terms awaiting them. A small thanks for a job well done and – invariably – a bucketload won.

Negotiations changed around the ’90s, with the beleaguered Graeme Souness caught in the crossfire.

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The Scot’s was a difficult balancing act: luring new talent with financial incentives, without alienating club legends in the process.

Throw in the Bosman ruling and the rise of the super-agent and you arrive at this current precipice – one Liverpool’s owners are clearly teetering over.

On wrestling control of the club from cowboy compatriots, Fenway Sports Group vowed to right wrongs…starting with contracts.

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At that time big money was being paid to under-performing stars, with that term used in the loosest possible sense.

Eye-watering renewals were also being signed off for those approaching the twilight of their careers. There seemed no method, only madness.

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In a bid to make the club more sustainable, the wage bill was quickly trimmed. The likes of Pepe Reina, Alberto Aquilani and Maxi Rodriguez made way for younger and frankly cheaper options.

Clear policies were also defined.

Following Luis Suarez’s departure, it was decided no buyout clauses would be entertained. This approach, a brave one in that climate, led to the somewhat infamous exit of Emre Can.

Over the course of eight years, however, a clear and prudent strategy was established.

Bonuses

But success brings its own complications. Success costs.

 

As Klopp elevated Liverpool from also-rans to world beaters, so FSG were forced to widen their own parameters.

So while a chasm remains in terms of their respective transfer spends, Liverpool do compete with Man City when it comes to contracts.

Indeed, according to the brilliant Swiss Ramble, ours is the second-highest wage bill in the country.

A key point here is Liverpool have paid out astronomical bonuses in recent years. Salah, along with the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, will have been rewarded handsomely for delivering trophies.

So while fans may baulk at news of Raheem Sterling’s £300,000-a-week flat wage, it should be remembered Liverpool contracts are heavily incentivised.

That’s how supposed gaps have been bridged. That’s why judging net spend alone is short-sighted.

Nevertheless, Van Dijk, currently believed to be the Reds’ top earner, is not among the top 10 highest-paid in the Premier League. And crucially, neither is Salah.

Impasse

Liverpool

So to the impasse.

The current deadlock in renewing the Egyptian’s deal paints FSG into a difficult corner. It would be wrong to say they’ve shown no flexibility in the past but this one really would be a break with tradition.

The lazy argument is the ownership outright refuse to sanction pay rises for those approaching 30.

Not only was Van Dijk’s deal sweetened in the summer but Jordan Henderson’s thereafter. Thiago was signed aged 29 and automatically became the club’s second-highest earner.

Then there’s James Milner, who has accepted numerous extensions since joining in 2015. He’s now 35 and not believed to be earning any less today than six years ago.

Yet Salah’s is the renewal of all renewals, owing to his current status in world football.

Best in the world

Right now, Liverpool have the best player on the planet. It’s debatable whether we could ever boast that in the past…

Steven Gerrard could lay claim to the title between 2005 and 2009, but in an era when Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho were strutting their stuff.

Liverpool

 

Luis Suarez was unplayable in 2013/14 but overshadowed by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

At this very moment, however, Salah has no equal.

Having just matched the Premier League record for scoring or assisting in 15 straight games, he is oozing brilliance.

This season the winger (yes, winger!) has scored goals that shouldn’t be possible, propelling Liverpool to a title challenge whilst giving off an aura of greatness.

Coupled with his international appeal he is arguably the most famous Liverpool player ever. He could also be the best.

Tying down the future of a sportsman who has graced the cover of TIME magazine now presents the acid test of FSG’s reign.

They can ill-afford to lose an icon. This would not only undermine the team but damage their own reputation amongst the fanbase, which is already muddied.

Yet the best player will, quite rightly, demand the best wages. Or at least something close to it.

Depending on your media of choice, Salah’s camp are apparently demanding anywhere between £300,000 and £400,000 a week.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume it’s £350,000. That would turn him from the 17th best-paid player in England to the fourth. No qualms there. In fact, he probably deserves better.

The bigger issue is how that skews Liverpool’s own wage bill. This would see Salah usurp Van Dijk by a reported £130,000 a week.

We believe our squad to be full of good lads, due in large part to Klopp’s ‘no dickheads’ policy. We’d like to think they too recognise Salah as an exceptional case and wouldn’t begrudge him such a massive hike in earnings.

But egos exist, even at Liverpool.

FSG may well be fearing the impact on future signings and re-signings alike. What’s to stop Mane from demanding something in the same ballpark as his striking partner? Could Van Dijk feel put out?

The reason a wage structure exists is to avoid these very scenarios.

Man United serve as a warning here, with the signing of Alexis Sanchez apparently dividing the dressing room and perturbing the world’s most overrated player in Paul Pogba. They have had no unity nor silverware since.

The Wijnaldum effect

There is a school of thought that Salah’s renewal has been deliberately delayed so it doesn’t provide a benchmark with which to judge other contracts.

Van Dijk, Henderson, Alisson, Fabinho, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have all been boxed in this regard.

The one exception of course was Gini Wijnaldum, whose own stalemate has created nervousness on the part of some Kopites.

For the longest time, it was simply presumed the Dutchman’s deal would be extended, on better terms.

For whatever reason the club refused to budge, seemingly unprepared to better the wages of a 29-year-old with a shedload of games on his footballing clock.

Were it not for those aforementioned renewals, that mini-drama might have set a precedent for Salah. Perhaps it still does.

To ratchet up the pressure on FSG, Salah has been quick to state his desire to remain on Merseyside. It’s not uncommon for clubs to leak stories in a bid to turn supporters against players they’d sooner sell than tie-down.

The likes of Sterling, Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano have tales to tell in that regard.

Salah and/or his agent have moved swiftly to close that playbook. Between them, they have left fans in no doubt that blame should be laid at the club’s door if no compromise is reached.

So the ball is firmly in John Henry and Co.’s court.

With just 18 months remaining on Salah’s deal, it’s naive to think European heavyweights haven’t made overtures to the player himself, in the hope of brokering a cut-price deal or free transfer before the end of summer 2023.

Liverpool

While he’ll appreciate admiring glances, you get the impression the Egyptian’s bond with Liverpool is sincere and he genuinely would love to stay.

Yet with every goal, the sound of that ticking clock grows louder still.

A breakthrough would be the best Christmas present Liverpool supporters could wish for.

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