Mohamed Salah will provide Richard Hughes with enormous Liverpool test

Mohamed Salah cut an unhappy figure during Liverpool's match at West Ham
Mohamed Salah cut an unhappy figure during Liverpool's match at West Ham -Credit:Photo by Vince Mignott/MB Media/Getty Images

Liverpool is looking to keep disruption at the club to a minimum this summer. It will be difficult for any manager to replace the departing Jürgen Klopp, but likely new man Arne Slot does at least play to a broadly similar, high-pressing style with Feyenoord. The Reds’ existing tactical blueprint will not need to be entirely discarded, even if certain tweaks are inevitable.

The squad is in decent shape too. Liverpool has done well this season considering it had to entirely rebuild its midfield ahead of 2023/24, and the likes of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai should be better next season with a campaign under their belts. Many youngsters at the club have gained invaluable experience this season too.

But a team is inevitably led by its longest-standing (often veteran) players. Captain Virgil van Dijk and his deputy Trent Alexander-Arnold are both about to enter the final 12 months of their existing contracts. The same is true for Mohamed Salah, but unlike the former pair, he has recently very publicly displayed his dissatisfaction. New sporting director Richard Hughes is joining Liverpool at a potentially tricky time and the contract issues will be a significant test of his abilities.

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It won’t have escaped anyone's attention that the Egyptian was arguing with Klopp on the London Stadium touchline during the 2-2 draw with West Ham on Saturday. It has been claimed that Salah was annoyed at not being given more playing time, with him only entering the field of play in the 79th minute.

"If I speak today there will be fire," he said when passing through the mixed zone after the match, though saying nothing at all would have diffused the situation rather than stoking it as he did. Such behavior inevitably fueled conversation regarding whether the Egyptian could leave the club when the transfer window opens. However, The Athletic reported on Monday that this outcome is not on the cards.

Liverpool is reported to 'fully expect' Salah to stay and they are planning for life with him in their squad next season. However, on the agenda is contract talks to determine whether he will stay longer.

It's no secret that Saudi Pro League clubs are eyeing his signature. While it's claimed the league's hierarchy believes Salah wants to spend another season at Liverpool, it is likely to launch a fresh bid for his signature as his Anfield contract runs down.

And this is where things get tricky for Hughes. Salah is comfortably the club’s highest-paid player but hasn’t scored an open play goal or provided an assist in his last eight appearances in all competitions. While his run-out at West Ham was brief, he did start five of the games in question.

Can Liverpool afford to commit sizeable wages to a player who may be on the wane and has very publicly questioned the authority of the manager? If they do decide they can, then will Hughes be able to negotiate a club-friendly deal with the club's biggest superstar, who will have other lucrative options on the table?

While sorting the futures of Alexander-Arnold and Van Dijk will be another huge task, it is the negotiations with Salah and ultimate conclusion which might prove the biggest test of Hughes' first year as sporting director at Liverpool. While the issue will not rear its ugly head just yet, Hughes may soon experience a baptism of fire, with Salah’s future opening the box of matches.