Roma football chairman James Pallotta described Mohamed Salah as an "unbelievable bargain" for Liverpool, before the two clubs met in the Champions League semifinal.

Such is Egyptian Salah's impact on the English Premier League, the Liverpool club and well beyond that, the description short-changes what Salah has achieved.

Thirty-five minutes into the semifinal first leg against his former club Roma, the phrase looked ridiculously underwhelming, as Salah curled a magnificent goal from the right-hand edge of the penalty area.

On halftime, Salah looked like the buy of any century with a lovely touch around the halfway line, before racing through a gap to take the return and chipping the ball over the diving goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

Advertisement

Then he made Liverpool's third goal, just beating the offside line then squaring the ball across for Sadio Mane as Roma were made to pay for pushing high up the pitch. From a similar position, he made the fourth, for Roberto Firmino.

The claim by Liverpool's owner John W. Henry that he was forced to overpay for Salah suggests his new club didn't really know what they were getting. Roma didn't understand what they were selling either - Pallotta felt for fellow American Henry so bought him lunch after the deal was done.

Pallotta admitted surprise at Salah's performances for Liverpool, saying: "The reason is probably because look, we utilised him differently than Liverpool have. They figured out the best way to utilise him.

"We had him as a winger ... they figured out how to use him a little differently and he's much more in the middle it seems like.

"Where I'm surprised is how great he's finishing ... do they have bigger nets in the Premier League? It's just been amazing watching him and every time he scores I'm like, 'Oh, dear God'."

It is not just the number of goals he has scored, 43 for now in 47 games, but the extraordinary quality go along with a decent tally of assists.

During the semifinal leg at Anfield, the fantastic Dutch footballer and TV pundit Ruud Gullit described Salah as "pure genius ... unbelievable".

Salah has taken the game by storm, after leaving Roma last year for a second stint in the EPL.

Salah's first spell in the world's most famous sports league came with Chelsea, when he scored two goals in 13 appearances from 2014 to 2016.

By world football standards he left Roma for Liverpool for a "modest" fee of $72m - a club record but maybe the best $72m an EPL club will ever spend.

He scored on his debut and has been scoring ever since. His feats include four goals against Watford last month, helping him become the top goalscorer in any European league ahead of players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in Spain.

"The Pharaoh" has scored 31 goals in the EPL so far, equalling the 38-game record held by three legendary players - Alan Shearer, Liverpool maverick Luis Suarez, and Cristiano Ronaldo. He has three games to set a new mark, and will surely do so.

The 25-year-old is now just four goals short of the club season record set by Ian Rush, a prolific marksman noted for goals that were as unspectacular as many of Salah's are spectacular.

Salah has scored his EPL goals at a rate of one ever 86 minutes — as a comparison the lauded English striker Harry Kane has scored 26 for Tottenham at a rate of one every 94 minutes.

Salah has also just been voted by his EPL peers as the player of the year, and some pundits including Gullit believe he can break the monopoly Messi and Ronaldo have on the Ballon d'Or, FIFA's world player of the year trophy.

The 95th-minute penalty he scored against the Congo, to take Egypt to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1990, seems almost mandatory.

Egyptian fans' banner for Salah during a match against Greece. Photo / Getty Images
Egyptian fans' banner for Salah during a match against Greece. Photo / Getty Images

The lines "Mo Sa-la-la-la-lah, Mo Sa-la-la-la-lah, if he's good enough for you, he's good enough for me, if he scores another few, then I'll be Muslim too" now ring out from the Anfield stands. And as the Telegraph reported, every Salah goal leads to roars booming out from the streets of Cairo.

Salah murals cover walls. Salah fans gather in cafes to watch the latest Salah feats. From social media traffic to kids wearing Liverpool shirts, his influence is everywhere.

"The good thing about him is that he started from the bottom and worked hard to succeed," the Telegraph reported a 20-year-old fan as saying.

"He comes from a village, and I'm from a village, too. I love him so much. I made my haircut and my beard just like him.

Salah is described in the feature as "a symbol of hope for a generation healing the scars of social change, and the nature of his journey matters as much as his success".

He is seen as maybe the one unifying force across divides, emerging as he did during the turbulent years which led to the ousting of President Mubarak in early 2011.

Sales manager Mohamed Mokhtar says: "We have gone through a hard time after the revolution. There was a feeling of defeat. Salah proved to the people that you could succeed despite the hardships. Nobody has reached this success before."

Another fan describes him as an "idol of the people".

Salah's ability first came to notice when he was 10 and he was a prolific goalscorer by his mid teens. Associates say he always believed he could make it in Europe, rather than aiming for a top Egyptian club.

Salah has effortless speed, but it is his composure which stands out including an uncomplaining response when he is fouled.

Bournemouth's Nathan Ake described the problem he and other defenders face.

"In a split second he's gone. If there is no pressure on the ball, then he can make incredible movement in behind you," the Dutchman said.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes Salah only struggled after first moving from FC Basel of Sweden to the EPL because he was still only a "kid" and Chelsea had an "unbelievable" squad.

Klopp told Sky Sports this week: "He's a very good player and we hoped, we were pretty sure, it would work out, but we couldn't be 100 per cent sure.

"He's stepped up to make the next step in his development. At Roma, he was really, really good and it's only because England has such a great league that you obviously don't watch other leagues often enough!

"It's clear he was really good at Roma and a very, very offensive midfield player. And he's very cool in front of goal."

Liverpool's worldwide reputation has not been matched by results in decades, and they are not big enough to ward of the giants of world football like Real Madrid when they come calling for a star players. Already, pundits are wondering if they can hang on to Salah.

Salah isn't particularly vocal, but comes across as very team orientated.

"I've said many times I play for the team and I try to score to help them win the game – that's the most important thing for me," he said, after inspiring a comeback Champions League victory over new EPL champions Manchester City.

Two late Roma goals — both after Salah had departed — in a stunning semifinal which finished at 5-2 have given them a huge glimmer of hope for the return leg in eight days.

But with Salah almost unstoppable, and Roma having to chase goals, it is hard to believe that he won't find then net again and lead European specialists Liverpool back to the final for the first time in 11 years.