RIYADH: During his five years at Liverpool, Mohamed Salah has become revered and respected, but it will be longevity that makes him a legend at a club with such a storied history.
That is the belief of Alan Kennedy, no stranger to Anfield acclaim himself with match-winning goals that clinched two of their six European Cup victories.
Salah will try to help the Reds land a seventh title when they face Real Madrid in Paris on Saturday — redemption for the 2018 showpiece when the Egyptian forward left the field in tears, injured after a first-half challenge by Sergio Ramos, as the Spanish side triumphed 3-1.
But only by staying longer at Liverpool and helping them to repeated success will he be elevated alongside — and perhaps even surpass — Kenny Dalglish, all-time top goalscorer Ian Rush, or Steven Gerrard as the club’s greatest player.
Out of contract at the end of next season, Salah has said he will be at Anfield for his final year but has not yet agreed a new long-term deal.
With 11 major trophies in eight years — including five league titles — after joining from Newcastle in 1978, Kennedy is better placed than most to discuss the club’s finest.
He said: “When you are saying if he is the best Liverpool player ever then, when you have played with Dalglish, Rush, and Graeme Souness, automatically then you think back to those days and think ‘what a player he was or what he did was incredible.’
“That was a great era for Liverpool. Dalglish was special, he did it every game and he played for 13 years. Every game he put in a shift, showed his quality, and so did Rush who had 15 years in total, so did Souness.
“I think what the players do today is sensational, but how long they do it for also matters,” Kennedy added.
“Sometimes people will say we don’t see it in every game from Salah or Sadio Mane, so it’s a difficult one to say who is the very best, especially with the difference in football to when I played.
“Mo Salah doesn’t give up, he’s very assured of himself, and has found the right way to play and the right team to play with — it’s perfect.”
Kennedy, however, believes he should stay at Anfield longer to be considered among the club’s greats.
He said: “That’s the important thing, to maintain standards and repeat the performances — and repeat the success. He is one of the best players Liverpool have ever had, but we need to know if he’s eventually going to stay or go because the uncertainty of it all means it affects his game as well.
“If he’s saying he wants to stay, then sign the contract and look forward.”
Kennedy, 67, would love for Salah to stay and be the hero against Real Madrid, and so end a proud 41-year record held by the left-back and his former team-mates.
Paris also played host when he drove home a left-footed finish in the 81st minute to seal their 1981 success, the last time 13-time winners Los Blancos lost a European Cup final.
Three years later, Kennedy hit the decisive penalty that sealed a tense shoot-out win over A.S. Roma after a 1-1 draw at the Italian side’s Stadio Olimpico home.
It was a glorious era for Liverpool, a side single-minded in their pursuit of honors and among the greatest to ever grace the game.
They won three successive English First Division titles between 1982 and 1984 — and only the FA Cup eluded them in 1984 when they claimed a treble of the league championship, League Cup, and European Cup under Joe Fagan.
Having lifted the League Cup and FA Cup this season, Liverpool’s bid for a historic quadruple was ended when Manchester City took the Premier League by a point.
But the valiant efforts of Jurgen Klopp’s men have now seen them lauded in a similar way to the heroes of yesteryear.
“Yes, they have that similarity. This current team has got a great mentality, that same belief and desire to win every game,” Kennedy told Arab News.
“They know they’re on a great run, have a great manager who can motivate players and you feel as though there is still more to come, and that’s why they could go on and achieve even more.
“Klopp also has that same aura of the great Liverpool managers. This team is certainly up there with the old teams, but do you give them the title of being the best?”
A win on Saturday would go a long way to answering that question.
Kennedy said: “If they win the Champions League and win three trophies in a season then that would put them right up there, of course, and would equal what we did in 1983-84.
“We got close to all four, failed in the FA Cup, but it was a great side and maybe we had a little bit more character in that 1983-84 season.
“It’s always hard to compare teams from different times because football has changed, but this current team should be looked upon possibly as Liverpool’s best ever.
“They are really strong throughout from the keeper, defense, to the attack, but it’s about the winning and getting the trophies, not about individuals or how close you got.
“There’s also one thing at Liverpool and that is the club comes before any player.
“If it was me scoring the winning goal, Phil Neal, or Kenny Dalglish, it didn’t matter. It was about winning for the team and as a team. That’s what these players are also doing now,” he added.
Kennedy said he was just “the lucky guy” to claim the winning goal against Real after overcoming a broken wrist to play, but Liverpool were a driven team totally focused on “trying to win everything” at that time.
It is an approach that resonates with Real Madrid, who are chasing a fifth Champions League in nine seasons.
Led by Karim Benzema, the La Liga champions overcame Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, and Manchester City with stunning comebacks to reach this stage.
Kennedy added: “Real are an exceptional team and to beat Manchester City how they did with those late goals was just awesome.
“There aren’t too many weaknesses in their side, they are very controlled and don’t rely too much on Benzema like some people say. Liverpool should have enough in their locker to beat them, but this is against Real Madrid and that’s the thing, we all know what they are capable of.
“If you want to be remembered for being great then you have to show it — you can’t hide in cup finals.”