Watford boss Javi Gracia likened Mohamed Salah to Lionel Messi after his four goals helped Liverpool to a crushing 5-0 win against Watford at Anfield on Saturday.
Salah’s spectacular 2017-18 form since signing for Liverpool last summer continued as his four-goal salvo, which included a sublime solo effort for his hat-trick goal, saw him take his tally to 28 league goals in 30 games as well as 36 goals in all competitions.
In addition, he became the first Egyptian to score a hat-trick in the Premier League with no other player scoring more for Liverpool in a debut season than him, this last outing seeing him overtake Fernando Torres.
With Roberto Firmino also getting on the scoresheet against Watford, Jurgen Klopp’s men further solidified their hopes of a top-four finish as they jumped Tottenham Hotspur to third with 63 points, though the latter have a game in hand with 61 points.
While the gameplan for most sides that face Liverpool would be to shut down Salah, Gracia claims the former Roma man is similar to Messi in that even the best gameplan can be undone by their brilliance. The Spaniard was notably on the receiving end of a 7-0 loss against Barcelona when he was managing Osasuna in 2014 with Messi scoring a hat-trick that day.
“Many times it is not so important what your plan is, no matter how hard you work on it, because a player like that can change it in an instant,” Gracia said, as quoted on FourFourTwo. “I remember that [7-0] game, you don’t need to remind me! But I also remember I went there the next season and won! They are both incredible players — they were both unstoppable, yes. Honestly, both are fantastic, and now Salah is in a very good moment, one of the best in Europe.”
“It is very difficult to play against them, because they can both score in any moment. That is the same with both, they have so many qualities, they can do it in a single moment. You can do everything right in your defence, and in one moment you are lost. You can have plans to stop them, you have to try and we did it [against Messi] with Malaga yes. But players are always the most important element in a game. Players like Messi and Salah, they make decisions, and they decide games. That is what happened with Salah,” he added.
Salah, who is notably ahead of Messi in the race for the European Golden Boot with the Argentine currently lagging three goals behind his league tally, is not the only one difficult to stop, but Liverpool as a team as well, according to Gracia who rates the two sides as the best in Europe today.
“It is difficult for us stopping an individual like Salah like it is difficult stopping a team like Liverpool. Sometimes you just can’t do anything,” Gracia explained. “But not only Salah, the whole Liverpool team is one of the best teams in Europe right now. They have a high pressing level, higher level than Barcelona. But both teams are in this moment the best in Europe.”