Jürgen Klopp will see the best of two Liverpool players next season as FSG get contract message

It’s the middle of May, and Liverpool are still technically fighting for the quadruple. Aside from the removal of the word ‘technically’, it is hard to see how things could get any better for Jürgen Klopp and his side. Even if they have to settle for ‘just’ a treble, it’s still a remarkable campaign befitting of one of the best teams Anfield has ever seen.

But it could all be about to move up another level.

Mohamed Salah has been a central figure at Liverpool almost since the moment FSG brought him to the club, and things have been no different this season. It is all too easy to forget his explosive start to the campaign, when he was on track to break all kinds of Premier League records — while he has tapered off lately, the club would never have been in a position to compete on four fronts without him.

For the most part, the drop-off can be attributed to regression to the mean. As late as November, Salah was on track for 60 goal contributions, a figure which would have shattered Alan Shearer’s record of 47 (set in a 42-game season). Even by the turn of the year, the record was set to fall. Purely statistically speaking, it was likely that something had to give.

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Even so, it is impossible to ignore the fact that something happened in January. Salah went off to the African Cup of Nations — the tournament acts as a neat line in his Liverpool season, with his unprecedented output giving way to merely solid numbers upon his return from Cameroon.

Coincidence? There is surely an element of that. But it would be churlish to deny that AFCON had an effect. Klopp has studiously stayed away from the topic, having bizarrely incurred wrath for an obviously tongue-in-cheek reference to ‘a little tournament in Africa’, but it seems obvious that Egypt duty placed an extra burden on Salah.

Much of that is intangible. The 29-year-old is tasked with carrying the hopes of a nation whenever he pulls on the Pharaohs shirt. As for the manner of defeat, a heartbreaking penalty shootout affair, it is bound to leave a psychological mark. This was only compounded by an identical elimination to the same opponents, Senegal, in a World Cup playoff.

But aside from the mental strain, there is a clear physical impact of having to play a major international tournament mid-season. Egypt went to extra time in each of their four knockout matches, placing gruelling demands on Salah. As a result, no forward in the whole of Europe has amassed more minutes than him in the current campaign: the draw with Spurs took him above the 5,000-minute mark. It’s little wonder that Klopp gave him a break against Aston Villa.

In this respect, the World Cup qualification heartbreak leaves Salah in a far better position next season. With no winter trip to Qatar to contend with, and AFCON moving back to its summer berth, the Egyptian will be able to focus solely on Liverpool (provided, of course, FSG resolve the contract dilemma). Removing the Africa Cup of Nations alone, that’s 750 fewer minutes right off the bat.

Nor is he the only one set to benefit. While Salah may have accumulated the most minutes of any forward in Europe, Luis Díaz boasts the record for playing the most games overall. Featuring 66 times, one more than Joe Aribo in second, he sits behind only his new teammate in terms of raw game time for attackers.

Liverpool will find it hard to believe that Díaz has truly ‘regressed’, given that he has been a breath of fresh air since arriving at Anfield, but his goal output has undoubtedly taken something of a hit since January too. The picture is more complicated than with Salah, given that much of this can be attributed to a transition from a weaker league, but it nonetheless seems likely that Klopp could soon see an even better version of his new signing.

As it happens, Colombia are another side set to miss out on the World Cup. As such, two of Liverpool’s most overworked players will suddenly become two of the most well-rested in the next campaign. Factor in a chance for Díaz to undergo a pre-season, coupled with an ever-improving ability to communicate with his teammates, and the duo are primed to hit new heights in the next campaign.

FSG must duly not allow Salah’s waning form to have too great an influence on contract negotiations. They have already done well to secure Díaz, but they could be in line for a double boost that fires Liverpool to unprecedented heights: on the verge of finally getting a season with a ‘winter break’ of sorts for two of his key stars, Klopp will want to make sure this benefit is not fumbled.

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