Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes the dip in Mohamed Salah’s goal output late last season was more due to the arduous demands placed on the player than speculation over his contract.
The Egypt international scored just eight times – three of which were penalties – in 25 matches after returning to Anfield as a defeated Africa Cup of Nations finalist having scored 23 in 26 prior to his departure.
Salah signed a new three-year deal immediately before his return to pre-season training and looked sharp in last weekend’s FA Community Shield victory over Manchester City, scoring from the spot again.
Klopp insists he did not see a drop in the 30-year-old’s commitment last season and suggested his struggles in front of goal were potentially more likely as a result of disappointments in the AFCON and World Cup play-off failure – both to Senegal.
“Everyone talked about it (the contract) and we are humans but I didn’t see it distracting him a lot to be honest,” said the Reds boss.
“Of course we are all influenced by things around us, we cannot change that. We are not different from other people.
“Mo had one of the most intense seasons ever, with the Africa Cup of Nations and all of our games.
“I think last year, around October, November or December, Sadio (Mane) was not scoring much and everyone was talking about that and after he left (for Bayern Munich this summer) it is like ‘Oh my God, how will we survive without him scoring goals all the time?’
“But, until December, Mo scored a lot. But the difference between the two (Salah and Mane) was one won the AFCON.
“But if you build a house and a storm puts (blows) it away, you did the same job: one takes energy and one gives energy.
“He was, from my point of view, in a brilliant shape and 98, 99 per cent.”
And he expects the forward to resume his quest for a fourth Golden Boot in five years.
“After a few weeks of holiday, Mo is always full of power and energy and he came back in a good shape,” he added.
“And yes, knowing where he will be, I wouldn’t say the rest of his career because he is a player who can play on for much longer, for the next very important years in his career that gave all of us a boost and him as well.
“It is of course much better than if he would have been out of contract next summer: Mo would have been the same person, I am 100 per cent sure he could have pushed that aside, but you (the media) would not have stopped asking and that is the problem we constantly face.”