Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )
Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

Salah’s fantastic Fiorentina start

Egypt’s international footballer Mohamed Salah is having a great start with his new team Fiorentina but how does his beginning compare with the club’s all-time legends? Ahmed Hamdi reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

It is probably one of the best starts for a player in the history of Italian football. Mohamed Salah, the Egypt international, has declared Florence his kingdom after superb performances in seven matches with the city’s Serie A representative, Fiorentina. Salah has scored six goals, including a Maradona-style strike against Juventus.

The 22-year-old has been on fire since setting foot in the pizza country, capturing the hearts of the Viola fans to the extent that his new club decided to produce a brand new team shirt with Salah’s name on the front.

Salah’s success in his first weeks at Fiorentina has him already being compared with the club’s greats -- Roberto Baggio, Rui Costa, and of course the ‘BatiGol’ himself, the top scorer in Fiorentina’s history, Gabriel Omar Batistuta. But does Salah match-up to their level?

It might be too early to judge, but numbers do speak loudly about Salah’s contribution since he put on the purple shirt, coming from London’s Chelsea Blues.

Using the numbers, Al-Ahram Weekly decided to compare Salah’s Fiorentina kick-off performances to those of the club’s legends to see where he ranks among them.

On 8 February this year the Egypt international played his first 25 minutes with Fiorentina against Atalanta, in which he put in a fine display but failed to translate that into a goal or an assist.

Six days later, Salah played his second match in the Serie A against Sassuolo. This time he shined with a goal and an assist in 82 minutes of play.

Packing his bag and returning to London, Salah went on to face Tottenham in his third match with Fiorentina in the Europa League. He played the whole 90 minutes, giving in a strong performance but could not get the ball into the net on several occasions.

However, it was the next match in the Serie A against Torino where Salah’s talent truly exploded, with a goal, despite a late equaliser from the guests.

He continued to score in the match after, in the second leg against Tottenham, before trashing Inter Milan with a goal five days later, claiming a long waited win for Fiorentina at Gussipi Miazza Stadium.

Becoming the poster boy of Italian newspapers, Salah had more tricks up his sleeve when he went face to face with The Old Lady Juventus in their own stadium, leading his team to a historic 2-1 victory in the Italian Cup. Salah scored both goals but it was the first at 11 minutes that was pure magic. He sprinted past three defenders and dribbled for 60 yards before launching in a shot from inside the area.

 The Egyptian’s brace in Turin earned his side a slender lead to take into the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final and condemned Juventus to their first home defeat in 48 matches.
The two goals put Salah on the top of the team’s scorers with six goals in seven matches. He has one assist, and one yellow card as well.

Now for the comparisons. About 25 years earlier, a young man called Gabriel Batistuta did not have the same success in his early beginnings with the same team Salah now plays for. The striker from Argentina played his first match with Fiorentina on 1 September 1991 against Juventus in which he lost 1-0 and could not leave a mark in the 27 minutes that he played.

He then got his chance to start the next match against Genoa a week later in which he gave a brilliant performance and led his team to victory, scoring one of their three goals. However, he also received a yellow card in the same match.

In the following five matches, Batistuta played almost 90 minutes in all, except for a match against Roma in which he left the field after 65 minutes. He failed to score or give an assist.

Batistuta, or”BatiGol as they call him in Italy, had to wait nearly two months before scoring his second goal for Fiorentina. Still, he became a legend, getting his own statue in Florence and was inducted into Fiorentina’s hall of fame.

Batistuta scored 168 goals in 269 games for the side, and 184 in 318 games in total during his time in Italy, the 11th highest Serie A scorer of all time – averaging a goal every 1.7 games.

Another club legend who did not have the same success as Salah in his beginnings with Fiorentina was Roberto Baggio, who led Fiorentina’s attacking line in the late 1980s.

Baggio struggled two years to get into the squad, succeeding at the end to play his first match on 26 April 26 1987 against Inter, which he lost 1-0.

He scored his first goal for the Viola in his third game against Napoli. He then scored again after two more games against Milan. In his first seven matches, Baggio scored only twice and did not have any assists. However, he did not concede any cards.

Baggio had graced Fiorentina with velvet touches, scoring some of the most beautiful goals in the history of football.  It is, then, not surprising that when it was rumoured that Baggio was being sold to Juventus in 1990, residents of Florence rioted in the streets.

In the mid-1990s, Fiorentina signed Portuguese playmaker Rui Costa. The midfielder quickly became a starting player in the Gigliati squad. But he had to wait seven matches to score his first goal which came against Padova on 23 October 1994. In his first seven matches, Costa failed to dish out any assists.

With the Florentine club, Costa won the Coppa Italia twice, also winning a Supercoppa Italiana. In 2004, he was named by Pele as one of the 125 greatest living football players.

Comparing the numbers, it is clear that Salah is having a great start with his new team, one that the team’s legends did not have but probably would have wished for when they joined Fiorentina.

However, the statistics prove that it’s not always about how you start but where you finish.

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