Jurgen Klopp believes Mohamed Salah would be a worthy winner of the player of the year award – but what matters to the Liverpool manager most are the trophies the team collect.
Egypt international Salah took his tally to 32 for the season – his haul of 24 in the Premier League matches that of Tottenham’s Harry Kane but has been compiled at a better rate of one every 92 minutes – in the 2-0 win over Newcastle during which Sadio Mane was also on target.
Salah has now scored in 26 competitive club matches this season, more than the likes of Paris St Germain’s Edinson Cavani (24) and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (20) in the big five European leagues.
Kane and Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne would appear to be the main rivals for Salah, who was named the African player of the year in January, for the individual award.
While Klopp feels all would be worthy winners he takes little interest in such debates.
“There is no doubt Kevin de Bruyne plays a nice season and Mo plays a really good one as well – but not only him there are a few more players,” he said.
“A few people would mention Harry Kane is not too bad, Roberto Firmino is not too bad, David Silva plays an outstanding season. For sure I forgot a few.
“In our team I like a lot what we did so far but I don’t have to make the decision.
“For me (individual) trophies mean absolutely nothing but winning a title with a team is different.
“But I really respect it and if he can win this competition he deserves it.
“We have to make sure he can keep on going in this shape and be important in decisive areas and score goals for us.”
Salah could easily have added to his tally, with Klopp adamant the Egyptian should have won a penalty for a late foul by Jamaal Lascelles, who the Reds boss felt should have been sent off for a stoppage-time clash with the forward which referee George Scott deemed to be clean.
“The second one was obviously not a penalty but it was 100 per cent a red card. How you cannot whistle a foul in that situation is quite a special view,” Klopp added.
“The other situation is a clear penalty with a foul on Mo Salah. You see it and think, ‘What?’ and you have to be quiet immediately.
“It is not important, football is a difficult game to whistle and sometimes it is clear and I think the last situation was clear.”
Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez, who tasted his first defeat in six meetings with the club with whom he won the 2005 Champions League, said: “in both situations it was not very clear.”
Regarding the Magpies’ performance, he said: “I’m not happy because I don’t like to lose, even if the game plan is good for 40 minutes. It has to be good for 90 minutes.
“We saw one of the best teams in the Premier League and we were for 40 minutes controlling defensively the game but you cannot make mistakes because with these things, normally you pay for that.”
Benitez, whose family home is in nearby Wirral, had both sets of fans singing his name towards the end.
“Obviously, on a personal level I’m really pleased with our fans and the Liverpool fans – both were really good for me,” he added.
“But we didn’t get any points. So I’m happy, but really disappointed.”