Paul Merson is adamant Liverpool have not yet shaken off the threat of losing Mohamed Salah to the Saudi Pro League this month after the club rejected a £150m offer from Al Ittihad.
The Egypt international has been the subject of interest from the Middle East for some time and a verbal offer was made on Friday.
However, the club have rejected it out of hand and consider the matter closed as the forward is not for sale.
The offer is understood to have been £100m up front with a further £50m in add-ons.
Merson told Sky Sports: “He’s one of the best players in the world. It’s a hard one. If you sell him for £150m what can you bring in? They’re not going to be better than Salah.
“But at the same time, are they going to win the league this season? I don’t think so. Do you take the money and try to rebuild?
“With another week of their window to go, they might just come in and say £200m and then it’s a worry.
“I would say £200m [would be too much to turn down]. I don’t see how you can turn that down for a 31-year-old. That would be irresistible.
“If Salah goes you’re talking about Liverpool not being in the top-four challenge. But with another week to go, you have to think of the lad and the wages being put around. That’s going to turn his head. He won’t be happy. It’s not a nice position to be in for Jurgen Klopp.
“I don’t see how they won’t put another £50m in. It’s not like they’re looking at their wallets. I don’t see Liverpool winning the Premier League with Salah, so why don’t you cash in?”
While the figure looks appealing for a 31-year-old Liverpool are determined to resist any attempt to lure away a player who has scored 138 goals in 221 appearances in six seasons, during which time he was won the Premier League Golden Boot on three occasions.
Even if they were mindful to contemplate a sale, which sources insists is completely off the table, it would leave them with no time to find a replacement let alone one of the calibre even close to that of Salah.
Merson added: “You’ve got to keep Klopp happy. He’s the manager of the club. He’ll want Salah to stay and if he does go that will be through upstairs [agreeing to the deal] and he’ll get disheartened. If he has £200m where’s he going to spend it with the window shutting?
“I don’t see them winning the Premier League with or without Salah. They might say we take the £200m and make this a four-year plan.
“Will he still be there on September 7? I’m going to go no. Neil Diamond: Money Talks.
“Mo Salah won’t be happy. I did it many years ago. I went to Middlesbrough the money was phenomenal. Looking back now, I wouldn’t do it again. But this is mind-blowing money. Let alone him never having to do anything again, his grandchildren won’t have to do anything again.
If he does go, Liverpool have to rip up the book and start all over again. I feel for Liverpool, I feel for Klopp.”
Klopp: We cannot sell Salah
Asked about the prospect of Salah leaving manager Jurgen Klopp: “The position remains the same, absolutely. No doubt about that. We cannot [sell Salah]. That’s how it is. Nothing else to say.”
In addition to still being one of the world’s top players, Salah remains hugely attractive to Saudi Arabia as he is the most high-profile Arabic player.
The Pro League’s transfer window does not close until next Thursday, which may still cause an issue for Liverpool as Al-Ittihad are one of the four clubs bankrolled by the country’s Public Investment Fund and therefore gives them access to greater finances than some of their contemporaries.
Klopp, for one, is unhappy about the discrepancy in deadlines.
“I don’t know how stable [the Saudi Pro League] is or how long it will stay like this, but I think the next two weeks will show how much of a challenge it is because whatever happens there, obviously, nobody (in Europe) can react any more,” added Klopp.
“That’s something I think UEFA or whoever should have an eye on to solve that because we all have to protect the game and we want to.
“We have to make sure with UEFA that these European leagues stay as strong as they are.
“For that you always need help from these kinds of things like changing rules or laws or whatever to make sense.
“We are all a bit surprised still probably in that sense by the activity from Saudi Arabia but a lot of players went there and that improves the league, definitely.
“That is the situation at the moment and I don’t know where it will lead to, but it seems rather like a threat and a concern than not to be honest, because I can’t see how we really can deny it in these specific moments.
“But what can we do? Say no and we can do that but that’s the difference between the contracts here and the contracts there.
“They are so big [in Saudi Arabia] that it causes problems, definitely, 100 per cent.”
‘Saudis want Salah as most famous Arab footballer’
Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
“The Saudi Pro League believe Mo Salah is the most famous Arab footballer in the world and it would be a massive coup for them to have him playing there.
“He has been on a list of names the Saudi Pro League have compiled of players they want to sign this summer. There’ve been other big names on it like Karim Benzema, Neymar, who they have been able to get – but so far they haven’t managed that with Salah.
“They want to sign him, his name is on that list, and if they can get him they would like him to play for Al Ittihad, the champions. There’s still a possibility, before the Saudi window closes on September 7, they may make a move for him.
“This won’t be a conventional transfer we’re used to. Their transfers are different, it’s not a case of discussions between clubs and talks, them contacting Liverpool. This is a centrally-controlles is a centrally-controlled operation, by the Saudi Pro League, the Ministry of Sport, the Sovereign Wealth Fund – and of course Al Ittihad.
“Salah has never come out and said he wants to move. The only public statement we’ve had was from his agent, which said that Mo had signed a new contract at Liverpool last summer, and he wouldn’t have done that if he wanted to leave.
“But, can I see him playing in Saudi Arabia? Yes I can, one day. I’m not saying it’s going to be in this window, January or next year, but the Saudis are very serious about signing Mo Salah and have almost unlimited funds.
“He’d be one of the best-paid players in the world, earning at least £1.5m a week, and they’d be prepared to spend more than £100m to sign him, which is a lot of money for someone who’s already 31.
“Put that into perspective, they spent about £80-90m for Neymar, who’s also the same age.
“Some Saudi outlets are reporting they’re very confident he’ll become an Al Ittihad player, that he’s going to have a medical in the next 48 hours. We’re also being told they’re going to go in and offer more – £175m, maybe £200m.
“But the best sources we have available, this afternoon are telling me, Al Ittihad don’t expect to get him, they’re hopeful – and feel it is inevitable they’ll get him eventually.
“They’re just working out whether they should go back in for him in this window.
“One final point – this is being done centrally. The people making these decisions isn’t just Al Ittihad. The chairman of the Saudi Pro League, the director of football at the Saudi Pro League, the minister of sport in Saudi, the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
“These people are all involved because they have a dream – and that’s to get Mo Salah, the icing on the cake, to the Saudi Pro League.”
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