The Athletic FC: Salah and the ‘rage’ of a star spurned. Plus: U.S. 2027 bid delay implications


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Hello! Father Time is in Mohamed Salah’s way. Can the Egyptian still find the bottom corner?

On the way…

Salah, Liverpool and the ticking clock

🇺🇸 Why U.S./Mexico swerved 2027 Women’s World Cup

⚽ Should Postecoglou care more about set pieces?

🏎 France’s Ferrari without breaks


Mo Problem? What to do with the Salah situation?

The subject of Mohamed Salah’s future has been burning this week — though not so much inside Anfield as out of it. Jurgen Klopp is on his way from Liverpool but any expectation of Salah also leaving appears unfounded, irrespective of reasons why selling him could make sense.

Let’s deal with the financials first. Salah, 31, has 12 months left on his contract (not that Liverpool are scared of losing players on free transfers). One club in Saudi Arabia tried to pay £100m ($126m) for him a year ago and the rising stress of profit and sustainability rules (PSR) means lavish fees are extremely tempting.

But there’s more to this than money. Neither Salah’s form nor fitness has held up perfectly this season. Diminishing rewards manifested themselves in the spat between him and Klopp on the touchline during last weekend’s 2-2 draw at West Ham United, a story I wrote about in Monday’s newsletter.

It’s natural to consider this from Liverpool’s point of view, in the context of what their next move should be with Arne Slot about to succeed Klopp. But what about Salah’s perspective? How does a footballer so stellar manage the onset of decline?

How does it feel as age creeps up on you?

Salah is one of the finest players the Premier League has seen. No one in England really cares about the competition’s Hall of Fame — it has none of the relevance of versions in U.S. sports — but Salah will make it in there one day.

Even this season, he’s come up with 17 goals. He just isn’t burning at full heat, hence why Klopp has been less religious in using him.

It’s no real slight on Salah. Very little has passed him by in his career and he’s seven seasons deep with Liverpool. Doesn’t time catch up with everyone?

Alan Shearer, the ex-England international, went through the same experience at Newcastle United. He’s written about his memories of it today in his column for The Athletic.

0503 Shearer 1 scaled


(Getty Images; design: Eamonn Dalton)

That feeling when the ageing process consigns you to the bench? “You rage, you despise it,” Shearer says — which seems to be where Salah’s head is at now.

 What happens next?

Top athletes are not programmed to settle for what they’ve got. I remember hearing the cyclist Thibaut Pinot talking about his popularity in France and him fretting he was “more popular than talented”.

Nothing is ever enough.

At his weekly press conference on Friday, Klopp seemed more interested in throwing shade at broadcaster TNT — but on Salah, he said the quarrel was “completely resolved” and painted their set-to as a natural extension of dipping form. To quote Shearer: “Once the winning stops, uncertainty kicks in.”

Some of this will be an extension of Salah’s inner frustration. Shearer says the Egyptian will be “angry at Klopp, angry at the club, angry at everything, including himself that he’s not quite reaching the same heights”.

Liverpool are standing by him, though. The game is up for Klopp, but the club think Salah has another season in him — at least.


Four More Years:  The U.S. has delayed Women’s World Cup bid, so what happens now?

GettyImages 1596186162 scaled


Fans in the U.S. will have to wait until at least 2031 for the Women’s World Cup to reach the country (Ed Zurga/Getty Images for USSF)

Major tournaments are stacking up in the United States, from this summer’s Copa America to the 2026 men’s World Cup. Before Monday, there was a strong chance the 2027 Women’s World Cup would fall into line.

That was until the news a joint bid by the U.S. and Mexico to host the 2027 showpiece had been withdrawn. The smart money is on FIFA awarding it to Brazil, with the U.S.-Mexico proposal focused on 2031.

Why the change? One aspect of the U.S.-Mexico pitch was that prize money for the men’s and women’s tournaments should become equal. FIFA made it clear that levelling-up wouldn’t happen by 2027. President Gianni Infantino told those pushing for change to “pick the right battles, pick the right fights”.

He has a way with words.

Beyond that, not every potential host city fancied bouncing from the 2026 World Cup into another a year later. The pivot to 2031 gives more scope to plan and fight for financial parity. As Adam Crafton writes, it also creates the potential for the women’s competition to expand from a 32-nation setup.

The bottom line here: the Women’s World Cup will be going back to the U.S. — just later than envisaged.


Problems for Postecoglou

Tottenham are heading the wrong way, mate.

Prickly subjects for Tottenham Hotspur head coach Ange Postecoglou: finishing in the top four in the Premier League and conceding goals from set pieces.

Both are on the agenda after Spurs lost 2-0 at Chelsea on Thursday. Champions League football is getting away from Postecoglou and fourth place is Aston Villa’s to lose.

In fairness, no one demanded the Australian take Spurs into Europe’s premier club competition instantly, but their defensive record against set pieces is becoming a bone of contention, even though he rails against questions about it.

Chelsea’s first goal yesterday (below) underlined the issue: zonal marking left one Spurs player to look after three of Chelsea’s, with Trevoh Chalobah burying a header. All too easy.

For U.S. readers:

For UK readers:


Quiz Time

Raul, Ruud van Nistelrooy, ???????, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Robert Lewandowski, ???????

Two footballers are missing. Who are they and what does the list represent?

You can find out here at 11am ET/4pm BST. We’ll also bring you the answers in Monday’s newsletter.


Around The Athletic

🇫🇷 Glory leading to scandal in 1990s France. The tale of Bernard Tapie’s Marseille is a cracker.

❌ Newcastle’s Sandro Tonali is in the middle of a 10-month ban for betting breaches. Now he’s been hit by another — but fortunately for him, his latest two-month ban is suspended. Chris Waugh explains.

🏠 The breeze sweeping through Manchester United isn’t merely affecting the club’s top brass. Sir Jim Ratcliffe is taking a hammer to the general staff’s work-from-home culture. Good luck with England’s rail network, folks.

📺 The EFL’s existing TV rights deal is about to end. A new agreement with Sky Sports, worth almost £1bn ($1.25bn), kicks in next season. The viewing experience will change, too.


Catch A Match

Saturday

Arsenal vs Bournemouth (7.30am ET/12.30pm UK)

USA Network, TNT Sports 1

Manchester City vs Wolverhampton Wanderers (12.30pm ET/5.30pm UK)

NBC, Sky Sports Main Event

Sunday

Liverpool vs Tottenham Hotspur (11.30am/4.30pm)

Peacock Premium, Sky Sports Main Event

(Top photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)





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