All of a sudden, the Liverpool squad that achieved so much success between 2018 and 2022 is evaporating before our very eyes.
What started as a minimal change to personnel has now become a huge one, truly signalling the end of a special era at Anfield.
Gini Wijnaldum waved goodbye in 2021, joining Roma, and Sadio Mane moved to Bayern Munich a year later. Now Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have all departed this summer.
While Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson and Mohamed Salah are still hugely important figures for the Reds, making up almost half of the strongest XI, there is a real feel of change in the air, not least in midfield.
A few of those mentioned don’t appear to be going anywhere for now – Van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold have just been confirmed as Liverpool’s new captain and vice-captain, so it would be a shock of either left for a number of years – but when it comes to Salah, it could be a different story.
The Egyptian King has arguably been the biggest superstar of the Jurgen Klopp era, along with the manager himself, arriving in 2017 at a time when some even wondered if he was simply a backup option to Mane in attack.
Six years on and Salah has broken countless records, inspired Liverpool to numerous trophy wins and become one of the most recognisable footballers on the planet, both on and off the pitch.
At times, he has single-handedly dragged the Reds through games and the level of consistency he has shown is astonishing. To rack up 186 goals in 305 appearances is a testament to that, not to mention registering 74 assists, which silences those who bizarrely claim his game is ‘only about goals’ and that he ‘only cares about his scoring stats’.
As another new season beckons, Salah again goes into it as possibly the first name on Klopp’s team sheet. While Luis Diaz, Darwin Nuñez, Diogo Jota and Cody Gakpo don’t necessarily feel like absolute nailed-on starters, the 31-year-old will walk into the starting lineup in the vast majority of matches.
But the question remains: are we about to watch his last season in a Liverpool shirt?
Mo Salah on his mural:
"It's great. The painting looks unbelievable. I was so happy when I went there [to see it on] the street and take a picture with it. I am going to post one of them soon, but it's unbelievable." #lfc [lfc] pic.twitter.com/oZs2Zpdo0Z
It is a question that will likely feel like a dagger through the heart of many supporters, such has been Salah’s vast influence down the years, but it is one that feels far less out of the question than it may have done in the past.
The Egypt legend’s current Liverpool deal expires in the summer of 2025, so there is no question that a big decision will have to be made from all parties this time next year.
At that point, Salah will only have a year remaining on his contract, and much like Harry Kane at Tottenham currently, the Reds will have to decide whether they keep him and risk losing him on a free transfer 12 months later, or accept a monumental offer for him from elsewhere.
The risk of interest from Saudi Arabia goes without saying, considering Mane, Firmino, Fabinho and Henderson have all gone there this summer, with eye-watering wages on offer – even compared to the life-changing money footballers already earn.
Salah could potentially be the poster boy for football’s rather distasteful new footballing powerhouse, and his head could be turned by a move there if it is still going from strength to strength in 2024.
There is also the potential of interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, should Salah feel he has come as far as he can at Anfield, enjoying one more huge move while in and around the peak of his powers.
Next summer, he will have been at Liverpool for seven years. At that point, while he may be threatening fourth-placed Billy Liddell’s tally of 228 goals for the club – he needs 42 to match it – the end of the line may have been reached, in terms of how much more Salah could reasonably achieve at Anfield.
Most Reds fans will certainly hope that isn’t the case, with another extension signed and more years of Salah ahead of us, but would the club hand a new long-term contract to a 32-year-old?
Even someone as special as Salah may struggle to alter the club’s general approach, in that respect, with Henderson’s much-discussed extension in 2021 ultimately a terrible decision, considering how much his peak level dropped off in a relatively sort space of time.
This may all sound a little doom and gloom, but it is realistic to feel that 2023/24 could end up being Liverpool’s legendary number 11's final season on Merseyside, even though it is hard to come to terms with.
Klopp is into his ‘2.0’ era with the Reds, with young players like Ibrahima Konate and Gakpo representing the future, as well as new signings Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai.
Receiving huge money for Salah next summer could, therefore, end up aiding the rebuild further, bringing to an end one of the greatest-ever Liverpool careers in the process.
Injury permitting, there is still a nice amount of Salah magic to come in the near future, but supporters should treasure every single second of him from this point on.
He is already in the same company, or at close to it, as the likes of Sir Kenny Dalglish, Steven Gerrard, John Barnes and Liddell, and bowing out in style would only further enhance his legend, if that proves to be what happens.
Maybe Salah will stay until deep into his 30s, and this writer will be made to look extremely foolish, but a betting man could easily argue that his last season at Liverpool is about to begin.