It was deja vu for Liverpool in January. Much as they had pursued Willian over the summer, only to see Chelsea swoop in and steal him, they also lost out to young winger Mohamed Salah at the hands of the Blues.
And Salah's agent, Sascha Empacher, says the Reds have no one to blame but themselves. His comments, via David Anderson of the Mirror:
It was a long and fair negotiation with Liverpool, but it lasted two-and-a-half months—too long. Both clubs could not agree on terms. When Chelsea contacted Basel, he was happy and took his chance. It was no financial matter.
Well, perhaps it was no financial matter for Salah, but it certainly seemed to be one for Basel. According to that report, the Blues offered Basel £11 million up front, while Liverpool only went up to £8 million.
For his part, Brendan Rodgers already seems to be regretting Liverpool's failure to capture Salah, noting, "The club did everything they felt they possibly could to get a deal but it wasn't to be," via Andy Hunter of The Guardian.
When asked what value Liverpool had ascribed to Salah, he said the following:
That's for the money guys to say that. It's the construction of the whole deal, not only with the player and the agent but also Basel as a football club. It was deemed in this case that we couldn't do a deal and Chelsea could. So the boy has gone there.
That's something that is out of my control. We can identify the players that we want to bring in and we hope we can get them in. If we can the club will do everything possible to match the value of the player. If they end up going to another club that is difficult to take. But you can't worry about it, you've just got to keep looking forward.
You have to wonder, of course, if Salah won't initially regret his decision as well. At Liverpool—a club that has been trying to upgrade on the wings since the summer—he would have had the chance to earn a regular place in the starting 11.
And you have to think he would have found plenty of joy playing alongside of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho. How fearsome would that front four be?
Probably fearsome enough to keep Liverpool in a top-four place and earn a berth to the Champions League. The failure to sign Salah could ultimately be a very, very expensive misstep for the Reds.
At Chelsea, Salah will be behind Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian, while Andre Schurrle will see plenty of playing time. At Liverpool, Salah would have probably been asked to adjust on the fly and play through some of the kinks players experience when first coming to the Premier League.
At Chelsea, he'll do a lot of his adjustment from the bench.
The problem for Liverpool is that it might be too late for them to upgrade out wide. According to Joe Mewis of the Mirror, the team is hot in pursuit of Yevhen Konoplyanka, a very speedy winger that is more polished than Salah, though lacks his overall upside.
David Anderson of the Mirror has more on that front:
Landing Konoplyanka would certainly soften the blow of failing to land Salah, and would really aid Liverpool in their Champions League push. But you have to think the Reds will be smarting well into the summer after Chelsea nicked two of their biggest targets over the past several months.