Mohamed Salah’s example can help Marcus Rashford rediscover the fire

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This was meant to be about Mo Salah, about his talent, his future, his present, his contract and about that interview in GQ magazine. It was meant to be a celebration of Salah and the phenomenal figures he has accumulated at Liverpool – 148 goals in 228 games. He has been mesmerising before and he is again.

And it is about that. It’s just along the way it also became about happiness and Marcus Rashford, about his talent and his present. The latter could be described as tense. Salah looks up; Rashford looks down.

Salah has been called the best player on the planet at the moment – admittedly by Jürgen Klopp – and not too many would say it is an outlandish claim. No-one is calling Rashford that.

Salah could walk into any side in the world, including Manchester City’s, he could even shift one of Paris St-Germain’s forward line were it a purely sporting decision. No-one is saying this of Rashford.

Of course these sound harsh comparisons. Rashford is not Salah, not yet. The Mancunian is 24, the Egyptian is 29. We forget that 24 is still young-ish, even for footballers. Salah is an example – at 24 he was at Roma fighting his way back. He was admired and desired, but he was not the commodity he became – or, more accurately, turned himself into.

Salah was still digesting the sense of rejection he felt at not making it at Chelsea. “I needed to prove them wrong,” he says in GQ. So he set about building himself up, physically, technically and mentally. He looked in the mirror: “Some people can’t face themselves properly. But I have no problem with that. If I’m struggling, I just face myself and just feel where I am.”

What he felt he required was change, first internal and from there external. One would lead to the other. “People suffer for years,” Salah says, “because they don’t want to change. But for me, like: no. I needed to change.”

It is in him. After all, he used to change buses four times to get to training as a boy making his way through Cairo and Nasr City to play for a team called Arab Contractors. It’s a famous story now and people tend to toss it off as a tale they’ve heard before; but it wasn’t famous when Salah was doing it, there was no Netflix documentary, there was merely a small boy, the chance of football and a different life. Don’t make it sound easy, because it wasn’t.

Marcus Rashford has struggled for form since his return from serious shoulder surgery. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA
Marcus Rashford has struggled for form since his return from serious shoulder surgery. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

From Egypt he went to Switzerland, then England, then Italy, then back to England and to prominence at Liverpool. Change is the purpose of history mused a novelist and on a personal level Salah probably concurs.

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