Jurgen Klopp is edging closer to his second Champions League final as a manager. The Liverpool boss guided his side to a 5-2 win over AS Roma in the first-leg of their Champions League semi-final last night.
It means Roma need to win by three clear goals in the return leg to have any chance of progressing. Liverpool are now on the cusp of something exciting but, of course, Klopp has been stung in the Champions League final before.
He took his heavy-metal football to Wembley in 2013 to take on domestic rivals Bayern Munich. Goals from Mario Mandzukic and Ilkay Gundogan had the even affair level until the final minute of the 90 when Arjen Robben scored a dramatic winner.
It was a sickener for Klopp and the perfect end to the season for Robben, who had struggled with injury problems throughout the campaign.
Watching Liverpool cut through the Roma defence last night, it was hard not to make comparisons between Klopp’s current superstar and the man who ended his Champions League dream five years ago.
Mohamed Salah plays just like Robben from the right-hand side of an attacking triumvirate. Defenders know exactly what Salah wants to do. He wants the ball on his left foot to get a strike at goal. But the Egyptian wizard shifts the ball with such pace that opposing forces cannot stop him doing so, just as Roma found out last night.
Then, much like Robben, he is also a threat running centrally from the wing. His lobbed finish over Alisson Becker last night was the perfect example. His run was very similar to the one Robben conducted to score that late winner at Wembley that left Klopp flabbergasted.
But the best and most flattering comparison you can give Salah regarding Robben is his brain. Roberto Firmino’s first goal was crafted throughout the game by Salah. After constantly coming inside and having Juan Jesus changing direction the Brazilian felt he had learned Salah’s game. He showed the Liverpool star the outside, daring him to go on his right foot. It was exactly what Salah wanted. He ghosted past the defender and produced a sublime low cross on his right foot to find Firmino.
That goal, where the mental fragility of the opponent was exposed, was vintage Robben.
The difference between Salah and Robben, however, is a killer instinct. The Dutchman’s highest tally for a season is just 23 goals. Salah has 44 goals this season alone.
What Klopp has is Robben with an edge, a dangerous prospect for anyone who stands in Liverpool’s way before the end of the season.
On this occasion, it could be Salah making Klopp jubilant in a Champions League final come May. With Bayern Munich facing Real Madrid in the semi-final, it could be at the detriment of his 2013 nemesis.