Before, during and after the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Mohammed Salisu’s run in the Black Stars has been brilliant thus far but getting to that point was not easy at all. Marred in controversy over his unpreparedness to honour an invitation to play for Ghana’s Senior National Men’s Football Team, Salisu drew the ire of many a Black Stars fan.
However, since wearing the shirt he has been brilliant and his injury induced absence for the double header against Angola was quite a low point in Chris Hughton’s national team coaching debut run. While the profiles of foreign based Ghanaian players continue to improve as they line up for some of the world’s best teams, matters aren’t looking so bright for the sport on the Ghanaian scene.
For years, the league has shipped out its best and brightest talents with the returns not heavily invested to improve the infrastructure and overall quality on the Ghanaian market. Constantly, weaning the top soil is one of the easiest ways for fertile land to lose minerals that boost agricultural produce.
The same principle applies in football and for so long, constantly weaning off talent is sure to cripple a team in the long run if not immediately.
AS Monaco’s glorious 2017 team is an example of the latter while West African Football Academy (WAFA) and Southampton are prime examples of the former. A few years back, Southampton would line top tier players like Virgil Van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic, Toby Alderweireld, Luke Shaw, Gareth Bale and Victor Wanyama (for a brief period).
Aside having players who moved on to achieve greater things, Southampton became synonymous with top but not elite coaches in Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman and Ralph Hassenhutl to morph into one of the better run clubs in the Premier League.
However, constantly weaning off the talent has come back to haunt Southampton and The Saints have been deservedly relegated to the English Championship.
A 2-0 loss to Fulham sealed the fate of Southampton and blocked out any chance of a miracle run to escape the drop after winning just six and drawing six games apiece in 36 outings. Strangely enough, Southampton still boasts of a collection of talented players who can start or contribute off the bench for a host of teams in the Premier League from title bound Manchester City to West Ham United.
James Ward-Prowse, Armel Bella-Kotchap, Romeo Lavia, Che Adams, Kyle Walker-Peters are some of the names set to be picked off by a host of teams.
Mohammed Salisu falls into this category after impressing in his third season coming off an excellent sophomore campaign.
Salisu ranks first in accurate long balls played and tackles made per game for Southampton while ranking 11th in headed clearances, 13th in clearances and ninth in blocks in the Premier League respectively.
The numbers prove that beyond Southampton, Salisu’s production is at par with some of the best players in the EPL and it isn’t surprising a handful of teams are reportedly interested in signing him.
One of such teams is Newcastle United and according to UK newspaper The Sun, is ready to shell out $18 million to get the former Real Valladolid man.
After a splendid campaign in manager Eddie Howe’s full season, Newcastle will play European football next season and joining the Magpies represents a huge step up in profile for Salisu.
However, unlike many teams, Newcastle is fortified at the back with a fleet of left footed center backs in Dan Burn and Sven Botman with left footed full backs Matt Targett and Jamal Lewis also on the roster.
Playing his way into a starting spot realistically looks tough and consistently warming the bench is the last thing the Black Stars need as it attempts to break the very long wait for a title. On the other hand, there are a handful of teams that offer an easier path to consistent playing time as a starter.
Another season of major promise, another season of disappointment missing out on a title even in the face of Harry Kane’s consistent brilliance.
After sacking another head coach and looking at the real possibility of Kane transferring from the team, Spurs are set for a reboot, retool and a rebuild all wrapped into one and would need some serious talent to get the new project off successfully. Doing so requires a better left footed center back than Clement Lenglet.
Compared to Lenglet, Salisu has made 29 successful tackles compared to Lenglet’s 21, Salisu has 119 clearances compared to Lenglet’s 50 while Salisu has made 14 more interceptions and 17 more blocks compared to Lenglet. A Salisu-Christian Romero partnership looks like a solid pairing to build Spurs new title chase team.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Roberto De Zerbi’s team has overcome Graham Potter’s departure to Chelsea and have played their way into Champions League contention.
After such a storied season, The Seagulls are set to lose key players including Moises Caicedo, Alexis MacAllister and Mairo Mitoma. Levi Colwill has been another standout performer for Brighton this season and is expected to leave at season’s end since his parent club Chelsea needs his services.
With Colwill’s departure all but certain, replacing him with Salisu isn’t a bad fall back option considering what he does offensively in a team that has an overtly offensive identity. Matched up against Brighton’s regular starters Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster and Colwill, Salisu beats the trio and holds his own in attack.
As the source of Brighton’s vaunted playing out from the back sequences, Dunk unsurprisingly has better numbers than Salisu with Dunk touching the ball 3, 307 times at the time of writing compared to Salisu’s 1,539. Dunk has played 978 passes forward while Salisu has played 531 passes forward this season. Colwill is left footed like Salisu and should form a solid combo with Dunk and Webster without compromising Brighton’s offensive identity.
In some quarters, Mohammed Salisu joining Liverpool is a big reach with Jurgen Klopp’s side regarded as an elite club and maybe too high a step for an ascending player who isn’t elite yet. However, others will immediately point to Virgil Van Dijk’s move from Southampton to Liverpool that spurred The Reds march to Champions League and Premier League title wins.
There is a legit argument to be made about the different circumstances of Van Dijk’s move and Salisu’s move should it go through considering Van Dijk joined Liverpool at a time the Merseyside outfit was on the ascent unlike the 2023 version that screams of an elite club. Liverpool central defensive options (Van Dijk, Rhys Williams, Joe Gomez, Nat Phillips, Joel Matip, Ibrahima Konate) are right footed and in need of a left footer to check the tactical balance at the back.
Beyond tactical balance, Van Dijk and Matip are 31 years old and have missed games extensively to injuries in recent seasons. Beyond Konate, Williams, Gomez and Phillips haven’t shown much to inspire confidence that they can do a great job in the absence of the veteran duo. On the contrary, Salisu has shown he is a better player and can readily step into a starting role and deliver at the top level.
By moving off Sadio Mane and about to do same with Roberto Firmino, Liverpool has rebuilt its frontline and made it younger by bringing in Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz. With James Milner, Arthur Melo and Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain set to leave at the end of the season, Liverpool’s midfield is set to undergo similar change. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to get the center back pairing of the future by pairing the 24 year old Salisu with the 23 year old Konate.