Gianni Verscheuren, writing for Bleacher Report, says that “Salah injured his shoulder in the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid, as the Liverpool winger landed awkwardly after a tussle with Sergio Ramos.” No, Salah injured his shoulder when Ramos hooked his arm and dragged him to the ground. Whether Ramos intended to injure Salah may be disputed; that he rugby-tackled him may not. Let’s not alter the simple facts for fear of annoying Real Madrid supporters.
1. Look: Sergio Ramos is one of the dirtiest players of our time, and deserves about fifty more red cards than he has received in his career. But I think that all he did today was something that defenders in general do half-a-dozen times a match: pull a guy down rather than let him get around you. Definitely a foul, but nothing more than that.* But I get why people are so upset: They know that if the Devil appeared to Ramos and said, “Hey Sergio, old friend, you can tackle Salah in a way that will knock him out of the game and out of the World Cup, without getting yourself sent off,” Ramos would instantly reply, “Where do I sign and in whose blood?”
2. Going into this match I was really worried about Liverpool’s defending, but they were fine throughout, and the centerbacks were great. (Lovren made several excellent tackles, including a brilliant late one on Bale, and assisted Mane’s goal.) Real got three goals that no defender could do anything about — goals in which the defense could play absolutely no role. Klopp’s defensive game-plan was superb and really constrained Real’s chances.
3. On the other side, Zidane’s defensive game-plan was clearly oriented towards stopping Salah, and yeah, probably by fair means or foul. So I think there is little chance that Mo would have scored in this match — but his presence would definitely have opened up possibilities for others.
4. Even with Mo out, some terrible luck for Liverpool, and some catastrophic goalkeeping, the Reds were clearly in this game almost to the end. They never gave an inch and, until that second Bale goal, were taking the game relentlessly to Real. That was tremendously impressive. If they can solve their goalkeeping problem and make just a couple of additional signings, they stand a very good chance of contending for the Premier League title next year.
5. I am worried for Karius. I have never seen a player more emotionally devastated than he was at the end of that match, and if he is able to recover his confidence — and no players need confidence the way keepers do — that will be a sign of exceptional emotional resilience. I pray that he has that resilience.
*Am I being too generous? Daniel Taylor:
Salah looked inconsolable as he was led from the pitch and Sergio Ramos had some nerve offering a sympathetic hug on the way off. Ramos had locked Salah’s right arm and turned him, judo-style, as they lost balance going for the same ball. Television replays hardened the suspicion it was a calculated move on Ramos’s part and when Salah landed, with a hell of a thud, the damage was considerable.
My doubt is this: It was clearly impossible for Ramos to calculate that if he pulled Salah’s right arm down it would lead to his landing on his left shoulder in such a way as to put him out of the game. So there had to be some more generalized malice: “I’ll pull him down and hope he gets hurt somehow and I don’t get sent off for it.” But I expect that’s a fairly common semi-conscious thought among defenders. Consider this rugby/NFL tackle by Jedinak on Mitrovic, earlier today:
Far more likely to cause damage than Ramos’s tackle of Salah. One could argue that Mitrovic and Jedinak are about the same size; but you can’t really expect defenders to play differently against attackers according to size — can you?
That was certainly a foul by Ramos on Mo Salah, but it wasn’t a dirty play, just a freak accident. After what Mo has done for Liverpool this season it’s incredibly sad to see him going off in tears — especially since he may never get another chance to play in a Champions League final. I hope Mo is back in action for the World Cup and wins the Golden Boot.
(And now Carvajal! Good grief.)