Why on Earth would Mo Salah go to Saudi Arabia now?

What a difference six months makes.

Just half a season after their moves to the Saudi Pro League, ex-Liverpool pair Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino are reportedly seeking exits.

A bonafide modern Anfield legend, Firmino has struggled to establish himself in the starting XI for Al Ahli and the 32-year-old hasn't played a full game for his new side since October, with his only three goals all coming in the 3-1 win over Al Hazem back in August.

Meanwhile, Henderson's Al Ettifaq are winless in eight, with the former Liverpool captain – who insisted he was excited by the project in the Middle East – supposedly offering himself to any club that'll take him in January.

Henderson's widely reported attempts to get himself back to Europe at the earliest possible opportunity are more than a little cringe-inducing, given the controversy over his £12m move and the infamous interview the former advocate for LGBT+ inclusion gave to the Athletic, in which he doubled down on his stance that it was never about the money and that he could, in fact, help change attitudes from within.

It has been reported that the former Liverpool skipper has struggled to adapt to the lifestyle, quality (or lack thereof) of football and low crowds in Saudi Arabia – with average league match attendances less than 9,000 per game. Some fixtures have attracted just hundreds.

The Saudis see their investment in football as a long-term project, but for some of the highly-paid global stars who have recently joined it may be hard to see the bigger picture if no-one is watching.

In other Liverpool alumni news, Steven Gerrard – manager of Henderson's Al Ettifaq – appears to be on the brink with his managerial career stagnating, while Fabinho too is struggling at Al Ittihad.

It all begs the question, why on Earth would Mohamed Salah even want to go to the Saudi Pro League now?

Regularly linked with the Middle East since that failed bid worth up to £150m from Al Ittihad last summer, Liverpool's No. 11 is the Premier League's joint-leading scorer (14) and the joint-top assist maker (8) as the Reds sit top of the table at just over the halfway point of the 2023/24 season.

Mohamed Salah - Propaganda

Mohamed Salah - Propaganda

It's been a sensational individual campaign from the Egyptian, who at 31, remains Jurgen Klopp's most important attacker, having recently hit the landmark of 200 club goals.

Across the calendar year of 2023, Salah was the only player in any of Europe's 'big five' leagues to hit over 15 for both goals and assists – and the first player to achieve the feat in the Premier League since Thierry Henry twenty years ago.

Anfield Watch has recently reported that Salah is now leaning towards extending his Liverpool contract beyond its current expiry date of 2025, and it's a move that makes sense for all parties.

The former Roma star may turn 33 by the end of his current deal, but he's shown little to no signs of ageing.

Earlier this season, Klopp claimed his winger was not 'biologically comparable' to other players the wrong side of 30, and it's easy to see Salah following the examples of other elite forwards (see: Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema, Lionel Messi) who have continued to impress at the very highest level well into their fourth decade.

From Liverpool's perspective, there's simply no player available that could replace Salah's output and, you'd bet, that's a reality unlikely to change for several years.

Jurgen Klopp, Mohamed Salah - Pro Shots

LIVERPOOL, 03-09-2023 , Anfield Stadium , Englisch Premiership Football season 2023 / 2024. Match between Liverpool and Aston Villa. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp greets Mohamed Salah

For Salah, staying put at Liverpool makes sense too.

Now at the Africa Cup of Nations and on a break from club football, he is staring down a second half of the season that could see him compete for four titles – as well as individual honours like the Golden Boot, Player of the Year and, who knows, maybe even a Ballon d'Or if things really go to plan.

Trophy hunting and record breaking have, unashamedly, always been central motivations for Salah.

Ian Rush recently revealed that the forward had even questioned him about his Liverpool goals record.

The same potential for acclaim and recognition is simply not available to Salah in Saudi Arabia.

Sadio Mane may have finished as a runner-up in the 2022 Ballon d'Or, but the Senegalese forward – a long-time teammate and rival of Salah – has drifted on the footballing landscape since his move away from Anfield.

Now at Al Nassr, Mane is only a couple of months older than Salah, but is already bracketed as being in the twilight years of his career, and is unlikely to trouble the upper-end of the Ballon d'Or rankings again.

Meanwhile, Mane's club teammate Cristiano Ronaldo may have outscored everyone else in world football in the calendar year of 2023, but does anyone care?

Cristiano Ronaldo

Salah, who remains the Saudi Pro League's dream signing due to his status as the Arab world's biggest sporting icon, may well find settling in Saudi Arabia easier than, say, Henderson.

He would get the adoration he loves and money he could never begin to spend, as he is held up as the jewel in the crown of this new project. But the examples of his former teammates show that it's a major risk for a player not yet sure whether they are ready to leave world football's top table.

The Saudis may be aiming to build their own Premier League, but why go for an imitation when you already have the real thing? And you are the best player in it?

If Salah really is that interested, chances are the opportunity will still be there in a few more years.

For now, there are worlds left to conquer at Liverpool.

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