Why Liverpool And Egypt Star Mo Salah Could Be At Risk Of Burnout
Mo Salah’s schedule has been jam-packed since he switched Roma for Liverpool in the summer of 2017.
The £37million move proved to be an absolute masterstroke for both club and player. In 104 matches for the Reds, Salah has accumulated 71 goals, 32 of which were smashed home in that record-breaking 2017/18 Premier League campaign, a sensational tally which saw him bag the PFA and FWA Player of the Season accolades.
Salah successfully retained the Golden Boot last term, added the 2018 FIFA Puskás Award to his rapidly expanding collection of top-notch individual triumphs, then earlier this month got his mitts on the glistening Champions League trophy; the first cup success of his career.
The 27-year-old also made the 2019 Time 100 list: “Mo Salah is a better human being than he is a football player. And he’s one of the best football players in the world,” said John Oliver in the opening excerpt.
Salah played 52 matches during a hectic 2018/19 club campaign that began in the hazy days of August, and didn’t conclude until earlier this month. The Egyptian featured in every single one of Liverpool’s 38 Premier League games, and all but one of the Reds’ 12 matches in their triumphant Champions League campaign. He briefly featured in a couple of domestic cup matches too, propelling his playing figure to a grand total of 4342 minutes (transfermarkt), which equates to over 72 hours of football.
Salah has played a colossal 8461 minutes of club football since joining Liverpool - trumping any other Reds player in than two-year period.. He is the star for club and country, facing tremendous pressure week-in, week-out. Liverpool are the favourites to win nearly every game they compete in. Egypt are the favourites to win the upcoming AFCON. And Salah is the favourite to win the Golden Boot.
Internationally, it was Salah’s goal in October 2017 that propelled Egypt to their first World Cup in 28 years. Earlier that year he agonisingly missed out on African Cup of Nations glory, instead settling for a runners-up medal. Now over the course of the next month he will bid to go one step further when Egypt take part in the 32nd edition of the tournament, which is the first of its kind to take place in the summer after it was moved from its standard slot at the start of the year.
Salah pulled on the Egypt shirt three times last season, he could extend that number to 10 appearances within the next month should The Pharaohs progress through to a second successive AFCON Final. The seven-times winners face DR Congo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe in the group stages, there’s the potential for three knockout matches, then a final or third-place play-off.
Salah’s season could finish as late as 19 July, and by then there’s a chance that Salah could have played a mammoth 62 games for club and country throughout the last year. That’s a lot of football. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.
Burnout isn’t just physical, as discussed by academic Dr Andrew Hill (in a piece for The Guardian about Raheem Sterling), who cites external expectation and mental fatigue as major psychological factors.
“We understand it to be much more psychological than physiological. There is often confusion when people talk about overtraining, too many games or fixture congestions; what they are talking about is physiological fatigue but burnout is normally about psychological exhaustion. They are correlated. For every match he plays there is going to be a psychological expenditure, associated with preparing for games and competing in games.”
If Egypt do suffer a shock early exit from the AFCON, it would understandably be a blow personally for Salah, but it could in fact aid Liverpool as their star man would have more time to rest and recuperate ahead of the new season, ensuring that both his body and mind is in top condition giving him the best chance of flying out of the traps.
Liverpool’s pre-season gets underway in just three weeks, it includes a week-long tour of America, a tour that Salah could well miss - a huge blow from a commercial standpoint. The Professional Footballers' Association states that players have a contractual right to five weeks off a year: Could Salah therefore miss the start of the season? Possibly, a lot depends on what happens with Egypt. However, with two trophies up for grabs early doors - the Community Shield and the UEFA Super Cup - Liverpool will understandably want him in their starting line-up come August.
It’s also worth noting that just before the hectic festive period Liverpool have to dart over to Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup. A chance for another trophy, but it involves more travel and more matches at a crunch stage of the season.
Salah prides himself on his rip-roaring acceleration and pace, his exceptional dribbling ability, and consistently high level of performance. But in order to remain at the top of his game rest is essential, a failure to recover and revive could easily hinder performance, whether it’s a loss of half a yard of pace, a heavy first touch, depleted energy reserves, or mental fatigue.
After all he’s achieved in a relatively short time, nobody could begrudge him a few weeks by the pool with a good book.