LIVERPOOL – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes his in-form striker Mohamed Salah should be considered for player-of-the-year honours in English football after taking his goal-tally for the season to 32 by scoring in a 2-0 win over Newcastle.
Manchester City’s brilliant playmaker Kevin De Bruyne remains a strong favourite in the running for both the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) and Football Writers’ player-of-the year awards over the final months of the season.
But Klopp, after seeing Salah score for the seventh straight game, said his man deserved to be competing for English football's top individual honours alongside the Belgian, who has played such a key role in the progress of runaway Premier League leaders City this season.
"Of course," said Klopp when asked if Salah is a contender. "Him and Kevin De Bruyne are playing different positions so it depends what you want.
"There is no doubt that Kevin De Bruyne is playing a nice season but there is no doubt that Mo Salah is playing a really good one as well. That's how it is."
The German boss added: "And it is not just them, there are a few more players people would mention. Harry Kane is not too bad, Roberto Firmino not too bad, David Silva had a few weeks when he couldn’t play for personal reasons but he is playing an excellent season.
"There are a few good players this season and, for sure, I forget a few as well," said Klopp after a victory that took Liverpool second, ahead of Sunday's matches, but still left them 15 points adrift of City.
The player-of-year campaign would appear to revolve around De Bruyne, Tottenham forward Kane and Salah, whose form appears to be peaking at the right time.
The Egypt international's 32 goals in all competitions took him past Luis Suarez’s best mark at Liverpool of 31 and to within a goal of the 33 netted by Fernando Torres exactly a decade ago.
No player within the big five European leagues has scored in more competitive club games than Mo Salah (26 games) this season. 🙌💥 pic.twitter.com/XFRgMsGnqR
With nine league games and, in all likelihood, at least three European ties left in Liverpool’s season, Salah should have the 36 goals scored by Robbie Fowler, 22 years ago, well within his sights.
More ambitious are the marks set by the legendary Ian Rush who scored 40 and 47 in two separate seasons for Liverpool in the 1980s.
"I had no numbers in my mind when we signed Mo but I knew he was a very-offensive orientated midfield player and, if you are that, you need to score goals,” said Klopp. "I love the goals he scores but I love the assists, love his attitude.
"I really love this player, how he is doing so well and thank God he is still healthy and fit and all that stuff.
"All the others are exactly the same for us, exactly the same importance, but Mo Salah deserves all the critics' praise he has got so far and I hope he can carry on."
Despite the fine finishing of Salah and Sadio Mane, who scored in the second half, Liverpool needed a superb save from Loris Karius to preserve their lead late in the first period when he denied Mohamed Diame.
"That was very, very important," said Klopp. "If the ball goes in, it changes the game for us. That save was like scoring."
Defeat for former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez at least came with the consolation of receiving a warm welcome from supporters of both new and old clubs and, at one stage, the entire ground at Anfield chanted his name in unison.
"Obviously on a personal level I was really pleased with our fans, and the Liverpool fans -- both were really good to me," said Newcastle boss Benitez.
"But we still didn't get any points, so I'm happy but disappointed. I'm happy with the approach of the team, happy with the work rate but not happy with the result," the Spaniard explained.