Pitchside

Why Chelsea and Liverpool should do everything they can to sign Mohamed Salah

Pitchside

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No, I've never been very good at geography, but even I know that Basel is in Switzerland. However, I hope I can be forgiven a little wanderlust as I'm clearly not the only one.

With Mirko Slomka a thing of the past at Hannover, they have been looking across the border at Murat Yakin, the 39-year-old former Basel and Swiss international defender who has made his club not only feared domestically, but also Europe-wide.

The mastermind of two Champions League defeats of Chelsea this season has cooked up a simple enough recipe at St. Jakob Park. Blend in some promising Swiss youngsters such as Yann Sommer and Fabien Frei, add a dash of experience in Marco Streller, and you already have a potent mix.

But - just like Jesse Pinkman's crystal meth in Breaking Bad - a special ingredient is required to give it the sort of pizzazz necessary to make them too hot for Chelsea's taste. In Basel's case, it's not chilli powder, it's Mohamed Salah.

An article in The Times on Monday suggested Liverpool, who are Salah's most ardent suitors, do not need the Egyptian international as they are already sufficiently well doted in terms of attackers, and shoring up at the back rather than stocking up up front is the priority.

But while many British football fans may not have heard much of Salah, they certainly will do so soon. Chelsea supporters surely remember him - or at least, those who didn't partake of too much Swiss beer will.

That knowledge may prove somewhat useful, following reports in The Daily Mail and Egyptian national publications on Thursday that Chelsea would prepare to pip the Reds to Salah’s signature now that Kevin De Bruyne has returned to Wolfsburg and Juan Mata is also set to depart.

After proving the hosts' most potent weapon throughout in the tie in late November, Salah breathtakingly accelerated onto a Frei diagonal ball in behind Branislav Ivanovic before producing a finish cooler than an Alpine glacier.

"I don't know how he managed to stay so clear-headed after such a run in the last minute," Streller told me, the admiration blatantly clear in his voice.

The resignation was just as obvious when the Basel captain added: "Unfortunately, I don't think he'll be with us much longer."

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That is obvious given Salah's undoubted qualities, all of which were evident in his winner against Chelsea. In his profile on Basel's official website, he rates Gareth Bale as the best player in his position.

On the evidence of Champions League games in which I've seen Salah - the former El Mokawloon player, the youngest ever Egyptian league debutant at 15, has not only the pace, but many of the other attributes of the rocket-fuelled Welshman.

Liverpool or Chelsea fans concerned Salah bears a passing resemblance to Jermaine Pennant need not worry too much, either.

Though when he arrived to be interviewed by me in Basel's press conference room recently, he sported many of the habitual trappings of a footballer - notably an ostentatious buckle on his designer belt - but his unassuming manner, just some 12 hours after putting Chelsea to the sword, was encouraging for a player who emerged from his native country a total unknown and is now being lauded as a major talent.

He also arrived in Basel without being able to speak a word of English, surprisingly the lingua franca of the cosmopolitan dressing room in the Swiss city. Within 18 months, he has proven not only able to master the language sufficiently to communicate with team-mates, but also adapted with remarkable ease to the European game.

Also on his profile page on the Basel site, Salah is asked where he sees himself in 10 years' time. "In England" is the simple, unequivocal reply.

Liverpool should write the cheque for the 12 million pounds Basel are asking for the 21-year-old to make that dream come true much, much sooner – if only to try and ensure their loss isn’t Chelsea’s gain.

Ian Holyman | Follow on Twitter

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