Mohamed Salah has admitted everyone at Liverpool wanted to play Real Madrid in this month’s Champions League final – with the pain of 2018 still on the players’ minds.
Real Madrid booked their spot in the Paris final alongside Liverpool when the Spanish side defeated Manchester City in Wednesday night’s thrilling semi-final, with Karim Benzema scoring an extra-time winner.
The final between Real and Liverpool is a repeat of the 2018 final in Kyiv, which saw the Madrid club come out on top via a 3-1 victory – after Salah hobbled off the pitch with a shoulder injury in the first half.
Salah did not hide the fact that he preferred to play Real than Premier League rivals City in the May 28 showpiece event – and that it was an easy pick between the two.
“If you ask everybody [at Liverpool], everyone wanted that game,” Salah exclusively told Sky Sports. “I don’t know why we’re not allowed to talk about it but I’m ok to talk about it – I wanted that game! I wanted to play Real Madrid before that game [against Manchester City].
“Of course, I’m not giving too much credit to them. They’re an unbelievable team with a great coach, great players. When they asked me who I wanted, I said Madrid. It’s an easy answer.”
Salah had to be consoled by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp after that 2018 final loss to Real and revealed a conversation with himself on holiday created a spark within him to get back on form – and win the Champions League 12 months later.
“You just feel so disappointed, so down,” Salah recalled about the Kyiv disappointment. “‘Ah come on, not in this game!’ But once you have time, it makes you forget.
“I had work affairs and then I had a holiday after. In that holiday I just asked – what do you want? To keep crying about it and be sad about it and it takes you down? Or you just fight back. And I fought back in the best way and that’s why we’re here now.
“We had a meeting after and the manager talked to us in pre-season. We were so hungry to win the Champions League the year after and in the Premier League we were very close as well. I think it had some benefits also, not everything was good losing that final but we had benefits.”
Fast forward four years and Real and Liverpool meet again in the same stage of the competition – with the winner potentially determining who wins the Ballon d’Or between Salah and Benzema.
The Real Madrid striker has 43 goals in 43 games in all competitions this season – including 15 Champions League strikes – while Salah is the Premier League’s top scorer with 22 goals – and 30 in 46 matches overall.
“I lost last time because I scored 40 goals but we didn’t win any trophies,” claimed Salah. “This time, my number is really high and we’ve already won one cup. If we win the next two, it’s going to be exciting who is going to win it.
“In the meantime, we have to focus on the main things which is the trophy for the team, then the rest will follow.
“This is my best season for me at Liverpool. The goal and assist numbers are high and the way I created chances, the highest number in the Premier League, everything around the game has changed a lot.
“I don’t feel that good when the team loses games, or when I don’t score or make a difference. But when the team wins and I don’t score, I’m still very happy.
“I just try to find the small things to fire me up. I try to look at a small record there, or another record there to keep my mind busy. I try to be driven with these records to break them, I try to be hungry for something new.”
Liverpool moved a step closer to a historic Quadruple after beating Villarreal in midweek to reach the Champions League final – with the Reds’ bid having now gone further into a season than any other English side before them, writes Richard Morgan.
Jurgen Klopp’s team headed to Spain leading 2-0 and, despite an early scare as Villarreal levelled the tie with two first-half goals, Liverpool fought back to win 3-2 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate to book their place in the Paris final on May 28 against Real Madrid.
Liverpool have surpassed the Chelsea side of 2006/07, whose own Quadruple challenge lasted all the way until May 1 of that campaign before losing to Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals.
The next leg of the Quadruple will come against Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 14, a repeat of this season’s League Cup final, which the Reds won on penalties in February.