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LIVERPOOL: When Napoleon Bonaparte was informed of the virtues of a new general, he apparently responded: “But is he lucky?”

Experience was one thing, but the French emperor also understood the importance of coincidences.

In his nine years at Liverpool, which came to an emotional end on Sunday at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp has been blessed with many lucky generals.

The German’s reign is marked, time and again, by getting the right man at the right time, and they all played their part in a historic era for the club.

In the summer of 2016, Klopp’s debut at Anfield, Sadio Mané became the first of his new generals. Gini Wijnaldum and Andrew Robertson were not far behind. They would all become pillars of his great Liverpool team.

Virgil van Dijk, in the winter of 2018, transformed Liverpool’s until then porous defense into one of the best in Europe, and even the world.

The Brazilian duo Alisson Becker and Fabinho, in the summer of 2018, became the last pieces of the puzzle. Klopp’s iconic team was complete.

But the most important general of all had arrived a year earlier. It is often forgotten now, considering what has happened since then, that when Mohamed Salah arrived at Liverpool from Roma in the summer of 2017, many pundits did not consider him a “world-class” player, whatever that means. mean.

But from the moment he entered Anfield, his and Klopp’s fortunes would become inextricably intertwined.

At full-time on Sunday after Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Wolves, when Klopp gave Salah one of his trademark hugs, the pair must have realized how lucky they were to have found each other seven years earlier.

Salah, it is no exaggeration to say, played a more decisive role in Liverpool’s success than any other player during Klopp’s time at Anfield.

And those who know better, knew it too.

The Kop has awarded three players the honorary title of “King”: Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and the boy from Nagrig.

Thousands of words have been written about Klopp’s reign in recent weeks, and given that it would take a book to cover the records Salah breaks, seemingly on a weekly basis, there is little point in reproducing the facts and figures of their time together.

Viscerally, these were moments, many of which flirted with footballing utopia and some that touched the depths of despair.

Salah scored on his debut in a 3-3 Premier League draw at Watford in the summer of 2017, and hasn’t stopped since.

The “Egyptian King” quickly established a striking forward partnership with Mane and Roberto Firmino, the “front three” as they would become known.

There was the impressive “Roadrunner” goal against Arsenal in Salah’s second start at Anfield; the FIFA Puskas Award-winning ball against Everton in a December snowstorm; and an even better version against Tottenham in February.

In particular, Salah would develop a taste for torturing the most prominent team of the era: Pep Guardiola’s magnificent Manchester City.

In his first season alone, there was a memorable goal in a 4-3 Premier League win at Anfield that ushered in an era, and a second draw at the Etihad as Liverpool beat City 2-1 (5 -1 on aggregate) in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. He had also scored in the first leg.

However, one performance still stands out above all the others.

On April 24, 2018, Salah offered arguably his best game for Liverpool in the 5-2 victory against Roma at Anfield in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals.

Against his future colleague Alisson, in the opposite goal, Salah scored two goals, assisted twice and for 90 minutes destroyed the Italian team. He was simply unplayable. It was a display that Lionel Messi would have struggled to improve on.

The Champions League final a few weeks later would bring Salah’s lowest time at Liverpool, as a shoulder injury saw him leave the pitch in tears after just 31 minutes. Without his talisman, Liverpool lost 3-1.

At the time, Klopp was turning a player who had a remarkable (lucky one might say) track record of availability and work ethic into one of the best players in the world, technically and tactically. Salah’s pressure on the opposition and his positional sense when out of possession perfectly suited Klopp’s demands and complemented the striker’s insatiable thirst for goals.

In Salah’s second season, the player and the team reached new highs, as they amassed a staggering 97 points in the Premier League and, incredibly, still fell one behind Manchester City.

Still, Salah scored one of Anfield’s big goals against Chelsea in a 2-0 win as they chased down the relentless leaders.

Even on the very rare occasions when he missed a match, the world watched his every move. As Liverpool, almost in disbelief, overturned a three-goal deficit against Barcelona to reach the 2019 Champions League final, the injured Salah sat on the bench wearing a T-shirt that said: “Never give up.” Sales skyrocketed.

A Champions League triumph in Madrid would be more than a consolation for the Reds, as Salah scored the first goal in a 2-0 win over Tottenham to give Liverpool their sixth title, a record for an English team. naturally.

Klopp had broken his duck at Liverpool and finally became European champions after almost losing to Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool in the previous six years.

Meanwhile, Salah was rewriting the record books with his goals, and the 2019/2020 season finally brought the Premier League that Liverpool fans craved.

A traumatized fan base had previously refused to sing about the elusive league title until one January night at Anfield, when Salah scored a goosebump-inducing stoppage-time goal to seal a 2-0 win over Manchester. United at Anfield.

“We are going to win the league,” Anfield roared to celebrate. After 30 years of disappointments and false dawns, they finally believed and the Premier League would be secured in record time, albeit three games after play resumed following the COVID-19 lockdown.

The four years since have not brought any league or Champions League titles, but other trophies (two League Cups and an FA Cup) have followed, seemingly always at Chelsea’s expense.

On the field, as Klopp’s great team fragmented, no one maintained his level of consistency and brilliance like Salah.

Goals of all kinds continued to flow, including a solo one, against Manchester City at Anfield, leading many to call Salah the best player in the world during the 2021/2022 season.

While others suffered long-term injuries, lost form or left the club (especially Mane and Firmino), Salah remained as reliable as ever: always available, always scoring, always creating.

That he is one of Liverpool’s all-time greats is no longer up for debate.

So when he recently had an unusual and public argument with Klopp on the West Ham touchline, few fans took sides. The coach may be untouchable, but Salah had earned the right to be on par with him. And that’s the biggest compliment of all, to both men.

In the end it all ended in hugs, smiles and some tears on Sunday.

Klopp and Salah were lucky to have each other. And we were lucky to have them.

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