Mohamed Salah has stepped straight into Juan Cuadrado's shoes at ACF Fiorentina, his goal against Tottenham Hotspur FC helping him further establish himself as a Viola favourite.
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When ACF Fiorentina allowed star man Juan Cuadrado to complete his winter transfer to Chelsea FC, they did so on one condition – that they got Mohamed Salah on loan as part of the deal.
The Egypt winger, no stranger to the UEFA Europa League from his FC Basel 1893 days, may not have been a like-for-like replacement for Cuadrado, but he was arguably as close a fit as possible for a club anxious to fill the fleet-footed Colombian's boots.
While Cuadrado liked to hug the touchline, punishing defenders with his pace and close control with the ball at his feet, Salah adds new dimensions to the Viola's game. He prefers to be more involved, not sticking so much to a predefined position but roaming across the park. Whenever the ball is there to be had, the 22-year-old will be close by, demanding and caressing it; showing enough of it to opponents to entice a tackle before skipping away into the space he has made for himself. Against Tottenham Hotspur FC, he was at his consummate best.
Although not a match for Cuadrado's raw pace – few are – Salah at least matches him in terms of skill and touch, and with three efforts in five outings for the Serie A club, his early goals-per-game ratio is even more enviable.
The one which eliminated Spurs on Thursday night was as opportunistic as they come, and typical Salah. Breathing down Jan Vertonghen's neck, he forced a mistake from the Spurs defender that freed him up to strike beyond Hugo Lloris and ease any nerves, his earlier one-on-one miss having suggested there might be a sting in the tail of this tie. From there on in, Salah was even able to take to a bit of showboating, parading his talents to the Viola tifosi who have had no hesitation in adopting him as a crowd favourite.
They may only have six months to enjoy his talents, however. Salah's loan expires in the summer and, according to Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella, keeping hold of him beyond then will be a challenge. "Given how much [Chelsea] are asking for him, I think they have high hopes in him," he said on Thursday.
Fiorentina will therefore enjoy Salah while they can, hoping that he can help take them at least as far as he took Basel in 2012/13. Two years ago, Salah opened his UEFA Europa League account against the very same opponents – Tottenham – before netting another in Basel's semi-final loss to Chelsea. Is history repeating itself for Salah?