Hamdi Nooh, a former coach at Egyptian Premier League side El-Mokawloon, is credited with discovering Liverpool forward and national icon Mo Salah on a scouting mission and was the Egypt captain’s first manager after he signed a professional contract in 2010. Hamdi speaks to AS about his friend and protégé ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid.
What was Salah like as a kid?
I first got to know him when he was 14 years old and he was strong physically and mentally. These qualities helped him to become a very fast player with and without the ball. Off the pitch he was polite and respectable.
Did you expect him to go as far as he has?
He tended to concentrate on the positive aspects, but he also worked hard to improve on his weaker points to become a better player. He lived a long way from the training ground and he had to make a huge effort to get there every day.
It’s curious that Salah started out as a full back…
Exactly! Salah was the left back for my team, he was the fastest player. He used to use his speed to score goals but he also linked up well with his teammate, especially with Mohamed Adel Abo Hatab. They played really well together and Salah provided plenty of assists for him to be the side’s top scorer two years running with 25-30 goals per season. He also played with Mohamed Elneny, who is now at Arsenal.
Do you think he will leave Liverpool?
Yes, he may think about leaving Liverpool if a better offer comes in, but that’s just my own opinion. He’s unique and his family means everything to him.
Salah has said he would like to play in Spain. Do you think Madrid or Barcelona would suit him better?
I can’t guess at that. I enjoy watching Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich but my heart is always wherever Salah is. In any case, I’ll be very happy if he goes to a Spanish club. Spanish football is my favourite.
Could you see him playing with Hazard at Madrid?
Absolutely! Hazard is one of the best players in the world along with Messi. If Salah joined Madrid or Barcelona he would bring a lot to either team because he will be playing with players who were born to be on the ball.
Do you think Salah has forgotten about Sergio Ramos’ tackle?
Salah will never forget the incident with Ramos. I cried at that moment because he was so distraught and angry. It was such an important game for him after a great season.
How did Salah feel about it?
He wanted to carry on playing because he is very professional, but it was impossible. He is the type of player who behaves impeccably and inspires people and he received a lot of support afterwards.
Do you think Madrid or Liverpool are favourites?
I think both Madrid and Liverpool are two of the best sides in the world and there isn’t much to choose between them. They have the best players in the world and I love watching their games. I’m a fan of both but in this case I want Salah to score and win.
How do people in Egypt experience Salah’s matches?
People always celebrate Liverpool goals and they pray a lot for Salah. He has become a national icon who represents the entire country and everybody supports him in every game he plays.