Steven Pienaar weighs in on Salah-Messi comparisons
Former South Africa international Steven Pienaar never doubted Mohamed Salah's talent despite his struggles at Chelsea, and believes that the Liverpool superstar could one day live up to the Lionel Messi comparisons.
Salah added another accolade to an outstanding campaign back in England on Sunday when he was crowned the PFA Player of the Year ahead of Manchester City trio Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and David Silva.
The forward's achievement recognises an an exceptional season in which he's netted 31 goals in 33 Premier League games, and has already scored eight in the Champions League to help Liverpool set up a semi-final showdown with AS Roma this week.
While Pienaar never doubted that the attacker - nicknamed the 'Egyptian Messi' earlier in his career - would prove to be a hit in the Premier League, he believes that it's still too soon to compare the 25-year-old with the Argentine superstar.
"It is early to compare him with Messi," Pienaar told KweséESPN, "but he's tough and he's got the character to build on [this season].
"I think he can be consistent for many, many years, and he's only young as well."
Salah's success in the Premier League has come at the second attempt, after the Egypt international originally failed to make his mark at Chelsea, where he struggled for gametime under Jose Mourinho.
"When I first saw him at Basel, I knew there was something special about him," continued Pienaar, who was recently appointed International Ambassador at Everton.
"Back then, they said he was the Egyptian Messi who was going to come through, and when he moved to Chelsea he was just unlucky that he didn't get the opportunity that he's getting now," he added. "When he left he went to Fiorentina to work on his confidence, and I was never surprised."
The records have fallen for Salah during a mesmerising campaign.
He's already tied Alan Shearer, Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo in scoring the most goals in a 38-game Premier League season, and could yet beat Ian Rush's 47-goal tally in all competitions in the 1983-84 campaign - a Liverpool record.
The former Roma man's campaign could get even better, as he's set to be the key man for the Egyptian national team as they head to their first World Cup since 1990 in Russia this summer.
"Back in Africa, we always knew the talent that he's got," Pienaar concluded. "When he played for the national team you could see he was a special, special player.
"He's just showing what he can produce if you give him an opportunity to play. He's the first African player to score  goals for Liverpool, so he's a special player."
Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.