The last time Egypt played in the FIFA World Cup, Mohamed Salah was not born yet. In fact, it would still take two years before the in-form goal poacher would be born. He was instrumental in Egypt’s qualification for the World Cup finishing as the top goalscorer and going on to be named the CAF African Footballer of the Year and the BBC African Footballer of the Year. He was also selected in the CAF Team of the Year and Africa Cup of Nations Team of the Tournament.
Was the saviour born? That is the big question.
Born in the Egyptian city of Basyoun, 100km or so north of Cairo, Salah’s footballing journey began in the Nasr City district of the country’s capital.
A talented youngster, he honed his skills in the youth teams of El Mokawloon SC, and made his debut for the senior side aged just 17 at the back end of the 2009/10 season, going on to make five appearances in total.
The following campaign saw Salah fully establish himself in the first team, and he grabbed his first goal at that level in a 1-1 away draw with eventual champions Al-Ahly in December.
By 2011/12, the winger was a key man for El Mokawloon, and was given recognition in the form of a maiden full international cap in September, which came in a 2-1 defeat to Sierra Leone.
However, having featured in every game for his club by February of that season, the Port Said Stadium disaster resulted in the cancellation of all remaining Egyptian Premier League fixtures.
In the absence of domestic football, Egypt’s U23s team were invited to play a friendly match against Basel at the Stadion Rankhof in March 2012.
The Swiss club had already been keeping tabs on Salah and were fully convinced of his talents when he scored two goals as a second-half substitute in that fixture.
Salah adapted quickly to life in Switzerland and emerged as a vital component of a team that won the Swiss Super League and reached the semifinals of the Europa League, scoring against both Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in the latter competition.
A strong start to 2013-14 saw Salah put Chelsea to the sword once again, as he netted in Basel’s shock Champions League group-stage victories over Jose Mourinho’s team.
Those performances persuaded the Stamford Bridge club to add the attacker to their ranks in January 2014 – amid rumours of strong interest from Liverpool – but he saw little game time before the end of the campaign.
Salah made just six Premier League starts over the remainder of that season and was adjudged to have slim prospects of featuring more regularly by the time 2014/15 got under way.
As such, he agreed a season-long loan switch to Fiorentina that helped prove he could make the grade in one of Europe’s toughest leagues.
Such was Salah’s impact in Florence, he was in high demand in Serie A when the possibility of another loan for the 2015-16 campaign emerged.
Roma won the race on that occasion and made the move permanent the following summer after 15 goals in 42 appearances from their new man.
The Egyptian took things up a level last term, finding the back of the net 19 times in 41 outings. The 26-year-old has featured more than 50 times for Egypt and has more than 30 goals to his name – and will be hoping to carry that performance into the World Cup.