When Juan Cuadrado signed for Premier League leaders Chelsea in January little attention was paid to the fact Mohamed Salah went to Fiorentina in the opposite direction. But now, after a blistering start to life in Serie A, the Egyptian could be a deciding factor in the race for the Champions League.
Vincenzo Montella’s side started the season sluggishly, but have transformed their fortunes and are now hot on the heels of Roma, Napoli and Sampdoria in the race for the Champions League. Salah’s dramatic winner against Roberto Mancini’s Inter Milan at the weekend has moved them to within two points of a slot back in the big time.
Few tears were shed when the 22-year-old left Stamford Bridge, after failing to impress since joining from FC Basel to fill the void left by Juan Mata’s departure to David Moyes’ Manchester United in January last year.
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A goal against Arsenal during the Blues’ 6-0 drubbing of Arsene Wenger’s side last March was a rare highlight, but he spent the majority of his time in the capital languishing on the substitutes bench and amongst the reserves.
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Mata had left to join Moyes’ sinking ship after struggling to adapt to life under Jose Mourinho, but Salah replaced the Spaniard in the role of part-timer with Eden Hazard, Willian and Andre Schurrle all above him in the pecking order.
Schurrle himself to join former Blue Kevin De Bruyne at Wolfsburg, but even the opportunity freed up by his exit was filled by Cuadrado as Mourinho willingly allowed the Egyptian international to leave for Fiorentina on loan in return.
But whilst Cuadrado himself has yet to make an impression, Salah has impressed in the absence of the Columbian having hit the ground running in his new life in Italy.
His arrival has ignited Montella’s men and bolstered them with a similarly direct and efficient threat. Inter are not the team they once were, and remain flawed under Mancini, but the dramatic winner against them on Sunday was proof the Chelsea loanee can cut it on the big stage.
Just mere days previously he was on the scoresheet as Tottenham Hotspur were eliminated from the Europa League, which if push comes to shove could be the way they reach the Champions League if the competition around them proves too strong.
He also scored a last-gasp equaliser against a stubborn Torino outfit, and if his start is anything to go by he could be just the player to fire Fiorentina further up the table and just the individual influence Montella has been pining for.