Salah challenges Ronaldo's supremacy
KIEV, Ukraine (AP):
For once in a Champions League final, Cristiano Ronaldo will yield some of the spotlight to another player sweeping up adulation and personal acclaim.
While five-time World Player of the Year Ronaldo is chasing a record fifth Champions League triumph, and fourth with Real Madrid, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is chasing a first. Not just a first Champions League success, but a first major title in football in his maiden cup final.
Victory in Kiev's Olympic Stadium today would be a fitting climax to an astonishing debut season at Liverpool for Salah. A season when the Egyptian seized his second chance at a Premier League club with gusto after a faltering spell at Chelsea.
Salah has had such a devastating impact that he poses a serious threat to the decade of dominance of the World Player of the Year award by Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi.
"I spoke to Mo about that ... if we win, definitely, he is one of the contenders," Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren said. "He has the quality, the world-class experience already. He is so calm, a man down to earth."
While lacking the flashy touch of Ronaldo, and presenting the image of a more modest lifestyle on social media, the 'Egyptian King' is as adept at harnessing his commercial appeal. In recent weeks, Salah could be found at news conferences promoting a cell phone company, a logistics firm and taxi service. No wonder Salah is making the most of his newly elevated status in the global game. In 2014, when Ronaldo reached the first of his four Champions League finals with Madrid, Salah was just completing his first five months drifting in and out of the Chelsea team.
Salah never settled and was eventually discarded by the west London club after only 13 appearances under JosÈ Mourinho. In Italy, a career stalling was reignited at Roma and Liverpool came calling last year.
Few could have imagined Salah's impact, powering the five-time European champions to their first Champions League final in 11 years with 11 goals in a run that began in the play-off round. Ronaldo eclipsed Salah in the competition with 15 goals after starting out in the group stage.
But both Salah and Ronaldo stand locked on 44 goals for the season in all competitions heading into the final. So potent is the 33-year-old Ronaldo, he only required 43 games. Salah, who is eight years younger, played eight more than the Portuguese.