Real Madrid came calling, but Mohamed Salah reportedly said no to the UEFA Champions League holders this summer, according to Spanish source El Pais (h/t Toby Gannon of The Sun).
Liverpool‘s top goalscorer last season reportedly was courted as a possible replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo. Discussions were held with intermediaries, but Salah continued to resist Real, who also reportedly reached out to Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane.
Instead, Salah signed a new contract with the Reds, committing his future to the Anfield club for the next five years. His decision has left Real chasing Chelsea‘s Eden Hazard, a player Gannon described as the “most achievable player Madrid can land this summer.”
However, not everybody thinks Los Blancos will be able or inclined to strike a deal for Hazard. Among them, Marca‘s David G. Medina described why the Belgium international winger’s price tag is a sticking point: “The consensus inside the Bernabeu offices is that no player is worth more than 100 million euros, with the exception of Neymar, and Chelsea’s demands of 200m euros for the Belgian will prevent any deal.”
Real have a problem if Chelsea’s asking price for Hazard proves prohibitive. It would leave the club from the Spanish capital still needing to fill the Ronaldo-shaped hole in their forward line.
Ronaldo, Real’s all-time leading goalscorer, took his prolific streak to Juventus earlier this summer in a deal worth more than £99 million. While new Real manager Julen Lopetegui still has Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio to call upon, few, if any, players can match Ronaldo’s output.
Ironically, Salah is one of the few who might, even though he always seemed like an unlikely target for Los Merengues. Specifically, his last meeting with Real may well have put the 26-year-old off ever joining the club.
Salah’s goals helped power Liverpool to the Champions League final in Kiev back in May, but his night was ended after barely more than 30 minutes following a clash with Real centre-back Sergio Ramos which left Salah with a dislocated shoulder:
Salah in tears as he is forced to leave with an apparent shoulder injury in the first half of the #UCLfinal Follow LIVE: https://t.co/1zF56JcJxG https://t.co/m1YvR7MFJ2
It also left Ramos subject to criticism:
Honestly, that was a disgrace from Sergio Ramos. He's ended @MoSalah's night, and possibly his World Cup with a cynical, horrible foul. Believe me, Ramos knew what he was doing there, dragging the arm down like that and holding. Red card all day. #UCLfinal
Salah’s influence was best underlined by how much Liverpool’s usually dynamic attack regressed without him:
Attacking-THIRD touches before and after Salah left the #UCLFinal in the 31st minute… – Before: Liverpool 56, Madrid 21 – After: Madrid 65, Liverpool 1 ONE.
9 – Liverpool mustered nine shots in the first-half with Mohamed Salah on the pitch, and none after he was subbed off. Setback. #RMALIV https://t.co/v0DOIhHCBQ
It’s little wonder Real would be keen on a player who can make this much of a difference. Yet Lopetegui maintains he’s not focused on new recruits. Instead, he believes Bale can pick up the slack in the post-Ronaldo era, per BBC Sport.
Lopetegui is happy with what he has, but it’s unlikely to stop Real looking for reinforcements, even if the club will have to examine a different price bracket.