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Clinching Champions League crown would put Salah firmly in frame for Ballon d'Or, insists Lovren

By Carl Markham

Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren believes winning the Champions League could elevate Mohamed Salah to the status of best player in the world.

Jurgen Klopp's side face Real Madrid in Kiev on Saturday night looking to win a sixth European Cup in club history.

And Lovren believes success would put Salah, winner of the Premier League's Golden Boot and scorer of 44 goals in all competitions so far this season, in contention for the Ballon d'Or - which has been the exclusive reserve of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who of course will be aiming to down the Reds on Saturday, since 2008.

"I spoke to Mo about that. It is still quite an early stage but if we win he is definitely one of the contenders," said the Croatia international.

"When you score 44 in all, definitely. When you look, Messi, Ronaldo, Mo Salah - he deserves to be in the top three.

"He has the quality, the world-class experience already.

"He is so calm, a man down to earth, and he deserves every credit for every goal he has scored until now and we will help him achieve this dream.

"It (winning the Champions League) is a dream come true for everyone.

"I always dreamed to be in the Champions League and I dreamed of lifting the trophy one day.

"We have the biggest chance in our lives. For some of us, maybe it's the only one, for some of us many more hopefully, but we need to be proud of ourselves."

One of the keys to winning in Ukraine will be stopping Ronaldo, who is the competition's all-time leading scorer with 121 goals and leads this season's charts with 15.

That will be the job of Lovren and January signing Virgil van Dijk who, since becoming the world's most expensive defender following his £75million move from Southampton, has had nothing but a positive effect on the team and his centre-back partner.

"It is always good to receive quality and Virgil definitely has the quality as he helped the team to improve defensively and also brought this calmness into the team," said Lovren.

"I feel also personally much more confident when you know you have a really good partner next to you, and he showed already at Southampton that he is one of the best defenders in the Premier League.

"It is great that we didn't take too much time to connect with each other in the games.

"Usually it takes more but when you have the quality, you show the quality the next day. You feel it in the team. We've had quite good games this season."

Lovren's confidence extends to being able to keep Ronaldo quiet for 90 minutes.

"Ronaldo, Salah, Messi: you need to respect these players a lot and he (Ronaldo) has already been in this kind of game for 12 to 15 years," said the centre-back.

"Every year he scores more than 30 goals, even if he has a bad season he scores 30 goals, but we play in the Premier League against the best strikers in the world and we know how to defend like a team.

"When you want to stop Ronaldo, we will stop him together. In some parts of the game it will be one against one and it will be tough, but it is a challenge that I am ready for.

"I have been working so hard to get to the final of the Champions League and I am ready for everything."

Belfast Telegraph

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