Mo Salah: I am "absolutely" not a diver

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Mo Salah hits back at accusations which have labeled him as a diver this season.

Posted: May 1, 2019 2:50 PM
Updated: May 1, 2019 2:50 PM

Liverpool forward Mo Salah says he "absolutely" disagrees with the accusations of diving which have plagued him this season.

Last month, Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock compared the Egyptian star to British Olympic diver Tom Daley after Liverpool beat the Welsh team 2-0 in the Premier League.

Liverpool's second goal came courtesy of a penalty after Salah was adjudged to have been fouled by Cardiff defender Sean Morrison.

Former Premier League referee Keith Hackett recently told The Telegraph that Salah is beginning to earn a reputation as a diver, while one Liverpool fan on Twitter said: "It sickens me to see a man with Salah's talent diving to get the upper hand."

But Salah believes the introduction of the video assistant referee into the Premier League next season will leave him vindicated against his accusers.

"I have nothing to say," Salah told Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks, speaking ahead of Liverpool's Champions League semifinal against Barcelona. "We will have VAR next season and when we get a penalty they will also say that VAR is wrong."

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Tempering expectations

Salah's remarkable first season in English football saw him pick up the Premier League golden boot on his way to setting a new record of 32 goals from his 36 appearances.

In total, the 26-year-old amassed more than 40 goals across all competitions.

Despite once again leading the Premier League golden boot race with 21 goals and eight assists, Salah has arguably becoming a victim of his own success, as supporters once again expect him to hit the heights of the 2017/2018 campaign.

Last season's tally may well prove to be an anomaly but given the previous record of 31 goals, set by all-time Premier League goalscorer Alan Shearer in 1996, had stood for more than two decades, Salah is bemused at some of the criticism he has received for not netting more often.

"Expectations from people are very, very high," Salah says. "So basically, you score 40-something last season, now they want you to score 60, next season they want you to score 90.

"It doesn't work like that. If I score 30 goals and my team is third or fourth, are you going to be happy? No."

Mo vs. Messi

Liverpool go into the Champions League semifinals as the only team to have reached the same stage last season, when the Reds overcame Roma in a thrilling tie to reach the final.

But the occasion was quickly overshadowed by Salah's injury after he was hauled clumsily to the ground by Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos.

The shoulder injury would force him to be substituted in the final and the memory of leaving the field in tears is one that lingers.

"When I think about it, it was very, very bad," he recalls. "Final (of the) Champions League, a big dream for yourself and for the city, for the fans, for everyone who wants to win the Champions League.

"That time, mentally, was very, very bad. When I got substituted, I went into the dressing room and was just crying because I felt like the Champions League was over and the World Cup is over. It was very tough for me in that moment."

Salah says he hasn't spoken to Ramos since the incident and he has closed a chapter on the subject, but the pain of coming so close to lifting the trophy is something that still haunts him today.

His World Cup dream also quickly turned into a nightmare, unable to recover in time from his injury to meaningfully impact Egypt's campaign as his country lost all three of its group stages matches.

"It still hurts now because you didn't win it," he says. "You feel like you were close to winning the Champions League and you didn't win it. I wanted to play at the World Cup -- it's a dream.

"But I wasn't fit. I went to my room and I was crying almost every day. Before the first game -- I didn't play -- I was crying on the bus, I went to the bathroom and was crying in the bathroom, because I wanted to start the game.

"I knew I was not fit at all to play but in one moment, like," adds Salah, snapping his fingers "It disappeared, it's so, so difficult."

Standing in the way of Salah and Liverpool's chance of redemption is Barcelona, as Jurgen Klopp's side face the small task of trying to stop Lionel Messi over two legs.

The Argentine maestro put in an otherworldly performance against Manchester United in the quarterfinal second leg but, rather than dreading the thought of facing him, Salah says he and his teammates are relishing it.

"Most people call him the best player ever," he says. "In the semifinal that's something very huge and something very, very exciting for me and the team. It's something great.

"It's something very, very huge to play against Barcelona in the semifinal -- wow."

Time will tell whether or not Salah and his teammates leave the Camp Nou pitch with the same enthusiasm come Wednesday night.

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