Al Ittihad's supposed interest in making Jose Mourinho their next manager could spell the end of their chances of landing Mohamed Salah, it has been speculated.
The Saudi Pro League club famously made an offer worth up to £150m to sign Liverpool's record Premier League goalscorer over the summer.
While that was rejected out of hand by the Liverpool hierarchy, Salah – the Arab world's biggest sporting star – remains atop the list of targets for the government-backed Pro League in future transfer windows.
Salah has been arguably the Reds' most important player in recent times and has started the 2023/24 season in strong form, scoring ten and assisting four in 16 appearances so far.
The dilemma for Liverpool is that the Egypt captain's contract is due to expire in 2025. Offering an expensive renewal to Salah – already the club's highest-paid player in history on a reported £350k a week basic pre-tax salary – could be seen as risky given he is already 31.
In the absence of extended terms, the Reds face the choice of either letting Salah walk for free in 2025, or cashing in while they still have the chance to make a return.
Consensus says that the Saudis will return for Salah in 2024 when a big-money offer may be too hard to resist, given the situation.
However, according to Sport, Al Ittihad may be scuppering their own chances of signing last summer's top target after sacking Nuno Espirito Santo.
The 2023 Pro League champions dismissed the former Wolves and Tottenham boss after a mixed start to the season, with reports claiming the club – who signed Fabinho for £40m this summer – are looking at high-profile replacements.
Among those is Jose Mourinho, with the Portuguese among the bookies favourites to take the job along with Julen Lopetegui.
The current Roma boss has not shunned Saudi attention, recently admitting: "I am convinced that I will work there [Saudi Arabia].
"I don't know when, but I am pretty sure of it. No one knows the future, but I will definitely do this. Doors are always open for me in Saudi Arabia. I want to feel the development there."
In an article primarily about Kylian Mbappe's future, Sport use Al Ittihad's interest in Mourinho to speculate that were the former Chelsea manager to replace Nuno in Jeddah, it could close the door on a move for Salah.
The Liverpool winger famously struggled under Mourinho in his brief stint at Chelsea in 2014, with Mikel John Obi recently revealing a dressing room episode that left Salah in tears.
While this is not an unreasonable theory by Sport in isolation, it overlooks the fact that Al Ittihad are not the only possible destination for Salah in Saudi Arabia – with the league taking on an active role in deciding which clubs targets are assigned to.
Previous reports have suggested that other league big hitters like Al Hilal could also be put forward as possible destinations in future windows.
After such a fine start to 2023/24, the prospect of losing Salah in less than a year's time is ever more worrying to Liverpool fans, who are yet to see evidence of any kind of physical decline from the 31-year-old.
Despite his advancing years, Jurgen Klopp recently insisted Salah – whose dedication to fitness is well-known – is still a 'young' player and not biologically comparable to others of his generation.