UEFA Champions League Goals Reload - Episode 1Sep 22
It’s rare to hear a footballer speak candidly these days, which perhaps explains why Mohamed Salah has whipped up such a storm ahead of this weekend’s Champions League final showdown against Real Madrid.
Speaking to BT Sport after helping Liverpool book their place in the tournament finale earlier this month, the 29-year-old revealed his wish that Real Madrid overcome Manchester City the following night in order to set up a rematch of the infamous 2018 final between the Reds and Los Blancos.
“I want to play Madrid,” Salah explained. “We lost in the final against them, so I want to play against them and hopefully win it from them as well.”
Zinedine Zidane’s Madrid claimed a historic 3-1 win to secure a record third straight Champions League victory on that night in Kyiv four years ago.
Helped significantly by a pair of high-profile mistakes from Loris Karius, Madrid sealed the win with one of the greatest goals in tournament history when Gareth Bale rose high to score a stunning overhead kick in the second half.
But those are not the moments that defined the match for Salah, whose experience of that night was soured by his injury-enforced withdrawal after just half an hour following a cynical challenge by Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.
When they asked me who I wanted, I said Madrid. It's an easy answer
- Mo Salah
Since the start of the 2017/18 season, Salah has scored 33 goals and produced 11 assists in the competition; only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (55) and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe (47) have been directly involved in more goals.
Additionally, Lionel Messi is the only other player who has surpassed 30 goals and 10 assists in the tournament over the same period.
Nobody needed reminding of Salah’s importance to this Liverpool side – particularly in Europe – but his impact places him alongside some of the very best players in the history of the competition.
His transformation into an all-time great Champions League talisman is made even more impressive against the context of his relative anonymity at this level before joining Liverpool.
Salah scored just three goals in 15 appearances in the Champions League proper (excluding qualifying rounds) during spells at Chelsea and Basel.
All 33 goals since have come during the reign of fabled coach Jurgen Klopp, who fans hope Salah will follow in signing a contract extension after the German boss pledged his future until 2026 in April.
The two have made a formidable duo in Europe: only three players have ever netted more while playing under a single manager in Champions League history – Lionel Messi under Pep Guardiola (43), Ruud van Nistelrooy under Sir Alex Ferguson (35) and Thierry Henry under Arsene Wenger (35).
Currently enjoying his best scoring season in the competition since the 2017/18 campaign, Salah will be desperate to add to his eight-goal tally by netting in another Champions League final after his early opener from the spot against Tottenham in 2019 – particularly given the extra significance the game clearly holds among the Liverpool squad.
Speaking to Sky Sports after Madrid’s dramatic semi-final win over Man City earlier this month, Salah doubled down on his desire to avenge the 2018 final.
"If you ask everybody [at Liverpool], everyone wanted that game [Madrid]," Salah said.
"I don't know why we're not allowed to talk about it but I'm OK to talk about it - I wanted that game! I wanted to play Real Madrid before [Manchester City].
"Of course, I'm not giving too much credit to them. They're an unbelievable team with a great coach, great players. When they asked me who I wanted, I said Madrid. It's an easy answer."
Salah’s comments have inevitably been picked up in the Spanish capital in recent weeks, with Madrid’s Uruguayan midfielder Fede Valverde issuing a fiery response to the Premier League Golden Boot winner.
'Obviously they're words that everyone can take however they want,” Valverde said.
“I'm his opponent and it's like disrespecting the Real Madrid badge, the players...
“The only thing we must do is give our best, try to show why we're in the final and let's hope we can give another trophy to the fans and to Real Madrid.”
Liverpool’s Parisian mission was given extra impetus at the weekend after the conclusion of a dramatic title race that saw the Reds come within minutes of a second Premier League crown in three years.
However, after Man City’s late rally saw the trophy snatched from Liverpool’s hands - and with it the chance of an historic quadruple-winning season – full focus will be on the Stade de France as Klopp’s men try to end the campaign with the most coveted trophy of all.
The bookies believe they’re in pole position to do so too, pricing the Reds at evens to secure their third trophy of the season while Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid are the underdogs at 5/2.
Can Liverpool exorcise the demons of Kyiv – or will Madrid make Salah eat his words?
Watch the 2022 Champions League final exclusively live on BT Sport this Saturday from 6pm. Click here for our comprehensive viewing guide to find out all the ways you can watch along for free.