Mohamed Salah appeared to be the difference for Egypt in their international friendly with Portugal on Friday.
The 25-year-old, who netted four times in Liverpool’s 5-0 demolition of Watford last time out, opened the scoring for The Pharaohs at the Letzigrund Stadion in Switzerland. Receiving the ball on the edge of the area, Salah fired a first-time left footed shot past Beto, who was taken completely by surprise.
The ball nestled right into the corner of the net, way beyond the outstretched hand of the shot-stopper, who did his best to get down quickly.
With stoppage time upon us, and Cristiano Ronaldo – who led his nation to Euro 2016 success in France, prior to his injury in the final – failing to make any sort of impact, it looked as if the baton was finally being handed over.
As things stand, Lionel Messi and Ronaldo are widely considered to be the world’s two best players – they have taken it in turns winning the Ballon d’Or for the last ten years.
Salah represents the new kid on the block; the latest superstar to rival the old guard alongside the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Harry Kane.
Let’s remember, Ronaldo is 33 years old these days, and plays a different role to the one he is most recognised for playing.
Gone are the days of the Portuguese zooming down the wing, cutting in, standing players up, knocking the ball past them, and firing balls from anywhere on the pitch into the back of the net.
Ronaldo on the other hand waits for the ball to come to him, and takes all the glory for finishing the move.
But when you’re as good as the Portuguese, then you can afford to have players sweeping up behind you, doing the donkey work. Deep down, as much as these players might want some of the limelight, they know that it is to the benefit of their team to keep the Real Madrid star well fed.
But Ronaldo’s greatest attribute isn’t his ability to be in the right place at the right time, to find space when it isn’t there, or put the ball in the back of the net. It’s his arrogance and never-say-die attitude.
There is no way the Portuguese was going to let Salah head home from Switzerland as the star man on Friday, not when he was sharing the same pitch.
On the 92nd minute Ronaldo, wearing the captain’s armband, leaped the highest in the box to nod home his nation’s equaliser. He then sprinted to pick the ball up from the back of the net and stuck it back on the spot, demanding the restart, despite the fact the game was a friendly.
On the 94th minute he again leaped highest in the box, and hit the back of the net once more, before spotting the linesman flagging for offside.
Without skipping a beat Ronaldo sprinted over to the side of the pitch to fight his corner, forcing the referee to consult VAR and award the goal.
Ronaldo and Messi’s time at the top is of course coming to an end – it’s the circle of life. But in Switzerland the Portuguese proved the time isn’t upon us just yet.