Mohamed Salah returns to Chelsea with Liverpool: How it went wrong for him at Stamford Bridge
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 06/05/18 3:21pm
Mohamed Salah returns to former club Chelsea on Super Sunday as a PFA and FWA Player of the Year-winner with Liverpool, so what went wrong for him at Stamford Bridge?
Chelsea and Jose Mourinho had high hopes for the Egyptian when he joined from Swiss side Basel for a fee worth £16m in January 2014, but he departed just a year later having struggled to make an impact in the Premier League.
Salah spent time on loan with Fiorentina and Roma in Serie A, signing for the latter permanently in 2016 before his £34m transfer to Liverpool, where he has hit 31 Premier League goals in a record-breaking debut campaign.
Ahead of Sunday's reunion at Stamford Bridge, where Salah will hope to show his old side what they are missing, here is a timeline of his ill-fated spell in west London.
Chelsea confirmed Salah's arrival on January 27, 2014, announcing he would take the No 15 shirt and clearing the way for Juan Mata to complete his move to Manchester United. Salah had also been wanted by Liverpool, ironically, but Chelsea won the race for his signature having been impressed by his performances against them in Europe.
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"He's young, he's fast, he's creative, he's enthusiastic," said Mourinho at the time. "We analysed him and he looks the kind of humble personality on the pitch, ready to work for the team and to work and to adapt himself to a new life.
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"We think with him and André Schürrle, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian we will be fine. We lose an experienced top player like Juan Mata but we bring in a young player with great potential. Hopefully, with the talented players we have around in the same positions we can all develop together."
First signs of trouble?
Salah was handed his Chelsea debut as a late substitute in a 3-0 win over Newcastle on February 8 and made another cameo from the bench in a 1-1 draw with West Brom a few days later, but there were alarm bells when Mourinho questioned his contribution in a 2-0 FA Cup defeat to Manchester City soon after that.
Salah was a peripheral figure after replacing Samuel Eto'o at half-time at the Etihad Stadium, with Mourinho later insisting his £16m signing was not yet ready to make an impact for Chelsea. "He was not in the game against Manchester City," he said. "He has that pace but he was not in the game.
"It's important for him to come step by step and try to improve and adapt. This is a different world, a different quality of football to the one he comes from. You know, playing at Stamford Bridge is not the same as playing for Basel.
"With Basel you play to enjoy your time and you have nothing to lose. While in the blue shirt, you have 40,000 people that you are required to please. Everyone wants you to be decisive, all the time. So I think Mohamed needs six months to adapt to our game and the demands of the Premier League."
Mourinho added that he had full confidence in Salah and said that the following season would be his "breakthrough" year, but it was perhaps not the arm-around-the-shoulder treatment the youngster might have hoped for so soon after his arrival.
Off the mark
Salah did not even make it off the bench in any of Chelsea's next six games, but he marked his return to action by scoring his first goal for the club in their memorable 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in Arsene Wenger's 1000th match in charge.
Salah had only been on the pitch for four minutes following his second-half introduction for Oscar when he beat Arsenal's offside trap and coolly dispatched his finish beyond Wojciech Szczesny.
Mourinho pumped his fist in the dugout before making more references to Salah's youthfulness after the game. "Salah's goal was very important for his confidence," he said. "He's a kid, like a baby really. He needs so much protection and support from all of us, the players are being fantastic with him so step by step we're getting there."
Man of the match
Salah's progress continued when he marked his long-awaited first Chelsea start with a goal and a man-of-the-match performance in a 3-0 win over Stoke at Stamford Bridge on April 5.
The Egyptian opened the scoring with a first-time finish from a Chelsea cut-back and went onto win a penalty for Frank Lampard's second goal before setting up Willian to score the third.
"I think Chelsea did very well," gushed Mourinho afterwards. "We sold a player [Juan Mata] in the best moment of his career and we bought a kid from a different habitat, an Egyptian player playing in Switzerland.
"Today he had the first chance to play [from the start] and I think one thing you feel immediately is the connection between him and the crowd; they like him, they like his style of play and he is player that we need. We have wingers who like to have the ball at their feet he is the kind of winger who prefers it in the space. Chelsea did very, very well to bring him in."
Hooked at Norwich
Chelsea were still in Premier League title contention when they welcomed Norwich to Stamford Bridge in the penultimate game of the season, but a 0-0 draw all but ended their chances. Looking back, it might also have been a turning point for Salah.
The winger was selected to start against the relegation-threatened Canaries, only to be hauled off at half-time after an ineffective display. Mourinho was unimpressed, with the Daily Mail reporting he had singled out Salah and Nemanja Matic for criticism in an angry half-time rant.
"The first half was a lazy half," said the Chelsea manager. "Slow, with no pressure, the midfield never arriving to press an opponent, the passing slow."
Nightmare at New Meadow
Salah was involved throughout Chelsea's pre-season programme in the summer of 2014, scoring in their friendlies against AFC Wimbledon and Vitesse Arnhem, but when the campaign proper began, it soon became clear that it might not be quite the "breakthrough year" Mourinho had predicted back in February.
Salah found himself firmly behind Hazard, Schurrle, Willian and Oscar in Mourinho's Premier League pecking order, and on the rare occasions he was afforded opportunities, his confidence seemed to have suffered.
He struggled badly in a League Cup tie with lowly Shrewsbury Town at New Meadow, with one wayward shot sailing out for a throw-in before he was withdrawn. It was an embarrassing moment which summed up his performance. Chelsea won the game 2-1, but Mourinho was less than impressed by the performances of his squad players.
"I expect players to give me problems," he said. "I love problems. But a lot of them didn't and they've made it easy to choose my team for Saturday. "If players who played 90 minutes two days ago were fantastic I expect people who are not playing a lot to raise the level to create me problems. They didn't create big problems for me."
Asked if he was referring to Salah and Schurrle in particular, Mourinho said: "Yes."
Salah only made two further starts for Chelsea after that - his last coming in Chelsea's shambolic 4-2 loss to Bradford in an FA Cup third-round tie at Stamford Bridge on January 24, 2015.
A week later, Salah was on his way to Fiorentina on loan, with Juan Cuadrado heading the other way on a permanent transfer. The Egyptian had only made 19 senior appearances in his 12 months at Chelsea, but he hit the ground running in Italy, scoring six goals in his first seven Fiorentina appearances. It was a sign of things to come.
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