Mohamed Salah deserves to be recognised as one of the best three players in the world, according to Egypt captain Ahmed Elmohamady.

Salah enjoyed another fine season with Liverpool, scoring 27 goals in all competitions to help his club win the Champions League.

Now, the forward will try to lead Egypt to an eighth Africa Cup of Nations title beginning on Friday.

Elmohamady said Salah deserved his place among the world's best, alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Salah is now one of the best three players in the world. This is a huge deal for the country and the Egyptian team," he told a news conference.

"Salah being on any team will help it and be a great addition. Everybody anticipates his performance, so this is a positive thing and a good addition for the Egyptian team.

"As has been said, Salah is one of the 23 players on the list. Each player will help the others.

"We play as one team, but having Salah with us is a positive thing and an important thing for us as a team and as players."

Hosts Egypt open the Africa Cup of Nations against Zimbabwe on Friday.

Ahead of Liverpool's Champions League final victory over Tottenham, Mohamed Salah glanced at a photograph to draw up pain and fuel his already burning desire

"I looked at the picture from last year before the game," he said, referring to the Reds' 2018 defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev, where a controversial tangle with Sergio Ramos left Salah stricken inside half an hour.

"I was very disappointed that I got injured and went off and we lost the game. It was something to motivate me to win. I just looked at it one time and said, 'Okay, let's go'."

Moments later, the back-to-back Premier League Golden Boot winner was dispatching an early penalty and sending Liverpool on their way to a sixth triumph in Europe's top competition.

The bad news for Egypt's rivals at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, as Salah looks to add to another history of success, is the same stinging motivation remains.

Still feeling the effects of his shoulder injury, Salah was a shadow of the attacker that ransacked the best defences in Europe at the World Cup in Russia last year. He still scored twice but the Pharaohs bowed out at the group stage after three straight defeats.

Hector Cuper paid with his job and experienced Mexican head coach Javier Aguirre has since led Egypt to six wins and a draw from his eight matches at the helm, with 20 goals in that time.

A settled and experienced squad featuring the likes of captain Ahmed Elmohamady, Ahmed Hegazi and Mohamed Elneny provide a solid foundation for Salah's brilliance, and the tournament hosts are worthy of their favourites' tag as they line up in Group A alongside DR Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe – their opponents in Friday's tournament opener.

Cameroon beat Egypt in the 2017 final but their build-up has not been ideal.

Stripped of the hosting rights, head coach Clarence Seedorf's initial decision to snub China-based players led to Benjamin Moukandjo's international retirement amid an unconvincing qualification campaign. 

They line up in a tricky Group F with Benin, Guinea-Bissau and fellow heavyweights Ghana.

As such, former Indomitable Lions defender Lauren believes another nation with a strong recent pedigree in the tournament could prove Egypt's toughest obstacle in pursuit of an eighth continental crown.

"Egypt are one of the favourites but I would go for Nigeria," he told Omnisport. "I saw Nigeria in the World Cup, a very young team with a lot of quality and a young squad.

"We will see them progress and they are one of the favourites together with Egypt, Cameroon and Senegal."

Since being denied a knockout place by Argentina in heart-breaking fashion in Russia, Nigeria have not always found consistency under Gernot Rohr but are the only side to have beaten Egypt during the intervening period.

Wilfred Ndidi and John Obi Mikel provide prowess and experience in midfield, while a favourable Group B draw alongside Guinea, Madagascar and Burundi should give Ahmed Musa and his attacking colleagues a chance to find their groove.

Group D looks devilishly tough on paper, with two-time winner Herve Renard leading a stylish Morocco boasting Ajax star Hakim Ziyech. A run of three consecutive defeats heading into the tournament has dampened expectations – a slump they must halt in the opener against Namibia with Ivory Coast and South Africa lying in wait.

A North African staging could work in favour of Tunisia – top seeds in Group E where they face Mali, Mauritania and Angola, as well as benefiting Algeria.

Djamel Belmadi's Desert Foxes are unbeaten in six and play Kenya and Tanzania either side of a mouth-watering Group C showdown with Senegal, whose hopes rest on the defensive might of Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly and the effervescent Sadio Mane in attack.

Nevertheless, most eyes will remain trained on another brilliant Liverpool forward and his bid fully right the wrongs of 12 months ago.

From Madrid to Munich? Gareth Bale could be set for a new challenge.

Out of favour at Real Madrid, Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich are reportedly eyeing the Wales star.

With Madrid looking to trim their wage bill and raise some funds, Bale appears headed for the exit door…

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN WANT BALE

According to The Sun, Bayern Munich are ready to offer Gareth Bale an escape from Real Madrid.

Having already signed Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Ferland Mendy, Eder Militao and Rodrygo Goes, Madrid are looking to sell as Zinedine Zidane continues his overhaul in the Spanish capital.

And with Niko Kovac's Bayern keen to bolster their attacking options on the flank following the departures of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, the German giants are reportedly prepared to take Bale on loan.

 

 

ROUND-UP

- Radio CRC in Italy reports that Napoli have moved closer to signing James Rodriguez from Real Madrid, which would reunite the Colombia star with Carlo Ancelotti after he was lured to Bayern Munich on a two-year loan deal in 2017.

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba will submit a transfer request in an attempt to force through a move to Real Madrid, according to ABC. Meanwhile, the Mirror claims the French World Cup winner is prepared to go on strike.

- The Mirror also says Mohamed Salah will weigh up his Liverpool future at the end of the 2019-20 season, despite reported interest from Juventus and Real Madrid.

- According to Sky Sports News, Manchester United are interested in West Ham defender Issa Diop. The Red Devils are reportedly willing to pay £45million plus a player. It comes as United struggle in their pursuit of a centre-back as they continue to be linked to Leicester City's Harry Maguire and Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is also reportedly persevering in his efforts to prise Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace.

- Premier League champions Manchester City have moved ahead of rivals Manchester United and Atletico Madrid in the race to sign Benfica sensation Joao Felix. That is according to the Daily Mail, which claims City's willingness to loan the 19-year-old – who has a £105million release clause – back to the Portuguese champions has tilted the transfer battle in their favour.

- The Daily Star reports Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann will reject Manchester United's advances to team up with Lionel Messi at LaLiga champions Barcelona.

- According to Sky Germany, Mats Hummels is close to re-joining Borussia Dortmund from Bayern Munich. The 30-year-old defender left Dortmund in 2016.

Mohamed Salah out and Nicolas Pepe in at Liverpool?

Liverpool are reportedly willing to sell star forward Salah in order to bring Lille's Pepe to Anfield.

Salah is coming off a memorable Champions League triumph with the Reds but could be heading out the door.

 

TOP STORY – SALAH COULD MAKE WAY FOR PEPE

According to le10sport, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is prepared to sacrifice Salah to sign Lille forward Pepe.

Pepe took Ligue 1 by storm with 22 goals as Lille qualified for the Champions League and Liverpool are believed to be among the Ivory Coast international's admirers.

The Reds are so keen apparently that they are prepared to sell top scorer Salah, who reportedly has a complicated relationship with Klopp.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Maurizio Sarri saga appears to be reaching its conclusion, with Sky Italy reporting Chelsea and Juventus have reached a deal to allow the Italian to move to the Serie A champions. The former Napoli coach's return to Italy is set to pave the way for ex-Chelsea star and Derby County manager Frank Lampard to take over at Stamford Bridge.

- According to AS, LaLiga champions Barcelona are making back-up plans should they miss out on Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt, who is the subject of interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Juve.

- Premier League title-holders Manchester City have been put off by a £90million price tag on Leicester City defender Harry Maguire, according to The Daily Mail. Pep Guardiola is reportedly eyeing the England international as a replacement for Vincent Kompany, while neighbours United are also interested.

- Liverpool are not interested in making another move for Lyon captain Nabil Fekir, The Independent reports. The Champions League winners came close to signing the France international last year but pulled out amid reported concerns over his knee.

- Carlo Ancelotti is still determined to bring Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez to Napoli, says AS. James' future is up in the air after Bayern Munich opted against signing the Colombia international permanently following a two-year loan spell.

- Cadena SER claims Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde is ready to sell Ivan Rakitic amid reported interest from United. The same station also says Marco Asensio is among the players on the market at Madrid following the arrivals of Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Ferland Mendy, Eder Militao and Rodrygo Goes.

- United and rumoured Madrid target Paul Pogba has no intention of remaining at Old Trafford in 2019-20, according to L'Equipe.

Mohamed Salah spent a moment looking at a picture of Liverpool's 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the 2018 Champions League final to motivate him ahead of their triumph over Tottenham.

Salah converted a second-minute penalty in Liverpool's 2-0 victory at the Wanda Metropolitano, and moments earlier he had been in the dressing room reminding himself of the pain he experienced in Kiev 12 months prior.

The Egypt international lasted 25 minutes of the 2018 final, leaving the field with a shoulder injury following a challenge from Madrid's Sergio Ramos, and he said the memory of that night drove him on as he took to the field against Spurs.

"I looked at the picture from last year before the game," said Salah.

"We were disappointed after the final and now we are back and have won it again, the sixth time for Liverpool. It is something great.

"I was very disappointed that I got injured and went off and we lost the game. It was something to motivate me to win.

"I didn't look at the picture for a long time. You can feel what you can beat so I just looked at it one time and said, 'Okay, let’s go.'"

Salah underlined the importance of Liverpool's defeat in Kiev even further by suggesting it was fate that the Reds would lose.

Asked whether he believed they were destined to bounce back and claim the trophy in 2019, he replied: "I do. Absolutely.

"Our job is more mental and you have to believe in yourself before the game. You could see the players; we were believing in ourselves in the game.

"I think everything happens for a reason and the reason for us to lose the final last season was to come back and win it again."

Looking ahead to 2019-20, Salah set his sights on achieving a first league title for 30 years to a set of fans who will believe the Reds can pip Manchester City next season.

Liverpool last won the league in 1989-90 but the sense of hope that Jurgen Klopp can end the wait to become Premier League champions has strengthened after the German delivered the first silverware of his tenure.

Salah added: "We will go next season for the Premier League. This season was the first season we were really fighting for the Premier League, last season we were basically fighting for the Champions League.

"The average age [of the squad] is 26 or 27, so we still have young players.

"It is good experience for us to win the trophy now and also last season we learned a lot."

Dele Alli called for Tottenham to use the pain of defeat against Liverpool in the Champions League final to drive them on next season, but admitted that missing out on Europe's top prize was "heartbreaking".

The England midfielder missed a number of opportunities at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, where goals from Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi earned Liverpool glory in the continent's biggest competition for the sixth time on Saturday.

Tottenham will be in the Champions League again next season after finishing fourth in the Premier League and Alli said the memory of losing in Madrid could become a tool they use to better themselves.

"It's heartbreaking, no one is really speaking," the 25-year-old told reporters.

"We have to keep working, keep improving and take the feeling we have now of disappointment, that hurt and use it to drive us on.

"It’s been an amazing journey and I'd just like to say thanks to the fans for all their support.

"I'm sorry we couldn’t get over the final hurdle, but it's a great learning curve and as I said, we have to keep this feeling inside of us, this hurt and take it into next season."

Alli struggled with injuries this season and scored five goals in 25 Premier League appearances – his lowest tally in a campaign since he joined the club in February 2015.

Tottenham's form fluctuated across the course of a season that saw the club move into its new home, but Alli said the experience of the last 12 months would stand the players in good stead.

"It's time to reflect on what could have been," he said.

"At the same time, and it's difficult now, but we also have to look at how far we’ve come in reaching this final.

"It's hard to take the positives right now but over time, players, staff and fans, when we look back at the journey together. This isn't the end."

Mauricio Pochettino said Tottenham supporters should be "optimistic about the future" as he set his sights on making a quick return to the Champions League final following a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool in Madrid.

The Spurs manager admitted his side's game plan was undone when Mohamed Salah scored a penalty for Liverpool after two minutes of the showpiece at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Divock Origi's late strike put the game out of Tottenham's reach, but Pochettino had nothing but praise for Tottenham's efforts.

"We can be proud of the effort, how we fought to arrive at this final," Pochettino told BT Sport.

"We were very unlucky - we conceded a goal from a penalty but to the end we were alive, fighting, I think we played so well. It was a tough situation that changed completely our plans.

"It's not easy to play a team that plays transitions very well, taking risks. I feel so proud.

"Our fans have seen their team in the Champions League final for the first time. It's time to be optimistic about the future."

Pochettino reflected on Liverpool's achievement in bouncing back from having lost the 2018 final 3-1 to Real Madrid to clinch the trophy a year later and said his players had set themselves high standards.

Tottenham finished fourth in the Premier League, 26 points behind second-placed Liverpool, but Pochettino indicated that he felt another shot at the Champions League title was within their reach.

"We have to learn from this experience," said Pochettino. "Liverpool did that last year and were in a different position today.

"I am so happy to manage this group of players but I congratulate Liverpool for a fantastic season.

"The standard [we have set] is so high. It wasn't enough today. When you live this experience you want to do it again. We hope to repeat it in the future.

"Always, it is about trying and believing. Hopefully it will happen again as soon as possible."

Liverpool and Tottenham were lacking the star quality expected of them as the Reds triumphed 2-0 in one of the most disappointing Champions League finals in memory.

Mohamed Salah scored after just two minutes from the penalty spot before 85 minutes of scant little action at either end gave way to a second goal from Liverpool substitute Divock Origi.

It was not the game either set of fans expected, but there were still key moments and interventions that ensured Europe's most coveted trophy headed to Merseyside.

Here's how we rated the players at the Wanda Metropolitano.

TOTTENHAM

Hugo Lloris: 7
Had no chance with the penalty and was otherwise excellent, making a superb save from Andy Robertson shortly before half-time to keep Spurs in touch. Could do little about Origi's goal.

Jan Vertonghen: 6
Did well to keep Salah at bay early in the second half and ventured forward to support a Spurs attack that failed to bare its teeth.

Danny Rose: 6
Fed Son Heung-min and Dele Alli throughout but saw much of his service frittered away, particularly early on.

Kieran Trippier: 6
Like Rose, Trippier poured forward to little effect in the opening stages and his late forays rarely proved effective.

Toby Alderweireld: 6
Was left bloodied at the end of a bruising encounter but could not get across in time to stop Origi from doubling Liverpool's lead three minutes from time.

Christian Eriksen: 6
Squandered a good chance when space opened up for him in first-half stoppage time and saw his curling free-kick saved by Alisson late on.

Harry Winks: 5
Effective around the halfway line, but like his team-mates seemed to freeze when approaching the final third. Replaced by Lucas Moura after 66 minutes.

Son Heung-min: 7
Showed flashes of energy and endeavour but was outmuscled by Virgil van Dijk or outwitted by Alisson when chances came his way.

Dele Alli: 6
Just as he did in the semi-final second leg against Ajax, Alli misplaced passes early on but grew into the game, only to fluff his lines when Tottenham's three best chances fell to him in the second half.

Moussa Sissoko: 5
Suffered a torrid opening to the game when Sadio Mane's cross hit his arm after 26 seconds and lost the key midfield battle against Jordan Henderson that could have turned the game in Spurs' favour.

Harry Kane: 5
Barely involved in the first half, Kane improved in the last 20 minutes as Tottenham pressed for an equaliser, but it was too little, too late from the England captain.

Substitutes

Lucas Moura: 6
Could have been Tottenham's saviour again but side-footed somewhat tamely at Alisson when the ball fell to him 12 yards out.

Eric Dier: 5
Replaced the disappointing Sissoko and fared little better in the heart of Tottenham's midfield.

Fernando Llorente: 5
Sent on late as Mauricio Pochettino sought the kind of heroics he delivered against Ajax but failed to make a mark on the game.

LIVERPOOL

Alisson: 7
Faced no shots in the first half but remained alert enough to make a crucial double-save from Son and Moura – and a superb one from Eriksen – when it mattered most.

Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7
One of Liverpool's major attacking threats in the first half, firing narrowly wide with an audacious 25-yard drive.

Virgil van Dijk: 7
As calm and assured as you would expect of the PFA Players' Player of the Year and showed his pace and composure to cut Son's mazy dribble short after 75 minutes.

Joel Matip: 7
Viewed as the potential weak link in Liverpool's side by some, Matip did not let his side down and helped to keep Kane eerily quiet before providing the assist for Origi's goal.

Andy Robertson: 6
Linked up with Mane to cause Tottenham problems early on and put in a solid performance defensively.

Jordan Henderson: 7
Harried and pressed Tottenham when he had to, doing just enough to keep Winks and Sissoko from settling into the game.

Georginio Wijnaldum: 5
The game passed him by in the first half and he was little better after the break, making him the obvious choice to come off for James Milner.

Fabinho: 7
Combined with Henderson to nullify the Spurs midfield, helping the England man form a wall on the halfway line that snuffed out Sissoko and Alli time and again.

Mohamed Salah: 7
Lashed home Liverpool's opener with supreme confidence and teed Milner and Mane up for good second-half chances despite seeing relatively little of the ball.

Sadio Mane: 7
Ran at Spurs from the outset and forced the penalty before playing a key role in Liverpool's late resurgence.

Roberto Firmino: 5
After a very quiet first half, Firmino cut an even more subdued figure after the interval and was replaced by Origi just before the hour-mark.

Substitutes

Divock Origi: 8
There was a buzz of excitement at the Liverpool end when Origi replaced Firmino and he did not disappoint, lashing the only chance that came his way into the bottom corner of Lloris' net.

James Milner: 7
Reinvigorated Liverpool on the hour, firing just wide from the edge of the box and rallying the troops to push for the second.

Joe Gomez: 5
Replaced Mane late on but had little to do.

Mohamed Salah made reference to the injury he suffered in the 2018 Champions League final after scoring an early penalty in Liverpool's 2-0 win over Tottenham in this year's showpiece.

The forward, who came off injured in the Reds' 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in May 2018, lashed home a spot-kick to give Liverpool a second-minute lead at the Wanda Metropolitano before Divock Origi's 87th-minute strike made sure that the occasion was a happier one for Salah.

In the 2018 showpiece, Salah left the pitch in tears having suffered a shoulder injury in a challenge from Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, and the Egyptian was pleased to finish the game this time around.

"Honestly I don't know what to say but everyone is happy now," Salah told BT Sport.

"I am very glad to play a second final in a row and play 90 minutes, finally!

"Everyone did their best to win the game. All the team were unbelievable today."

Although VAR was available, the decision to award Liverpool a penalty after Moussa Sissoko handled Sadio Mane's cross was not reviewed.

Salah had previously indicated that he felt the introduction of VAR in Premier League matches would not necessarily improve the game, but changed his tune as Liverpool celebrated, saying: "I like it anyway now!"

Reflecting on his journey from being a young player at Al Mokawloon in his home country to becoming a European champion, Salah said the road had not been easy.

"I sacrificed a lot in my career, especially going from my village to Cairo to play and back," he said.

"To be an Egyptian at this level is unbelievable."

He added on beIN SPORTS: "It was my dream since I was seven years old to win the Champions League title. I want, next year, to be the first Arabian player to win this title two times."

Mohamed Salah put last season's final heartbreak behind him by setting up a 2-0 win over Tottenham in Madrid and a sixth Champions League triumph for Liverpool.

Egypt star Salah was infamously injured in a challenge with Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos before the Reds subsided to a 3-1 defeat in Kiev 12 months ago but grabbed the opener in a largely forgettable contest at the Wanda Metropolitano.

The Premier League Golden Boot winner dispatched a second-minute penalty after Moussa Sissoko was penalised for handball.

Liverpool and their Premier League counterparts played in fits and starts thereafter, with Spurs enjoying their most consistent spell of pressure before substitute Divock Origi added to his semi-final brace against Barcelona by drilling clinically into the bottom-right corner three minutes from time.

 

Mohamed Salah scored inside two minutes against Tottenham on Saturday for the second fastest goal in Champions League final history.

Liverpool were awarded a penalty inside 30 seconds as Moussa Sissoko handled Sadio Mane's cross just inside the Spurs area.

And Reds star Salah thrashed in the spot-kick after just one minute and 48 seconds at the Wanda Metropolitano to put last season's beaten finalists in control early on.

The only goal in a Champions League final to be netted earlier came against Liverpool the last time they won the trophy in 2005.

AC Milan's Paolo Maldini struck after 50 seconds as Milan raced into a 3-0 half-time lead before collapsing in Istanbul.

The next fastest after Salah's was Gaizka Mendieta's third-minute effort for Valencia against Bayern Munich in 2001, although he, like Maldini, ended up on the losing side.

Ivan Rakitic netted four minutes into Barcelona's 2015 win over Juventus, while Bayern's Mario Basler was another to open the scoring in vain after six minutes against Manchester United in 1999.

Salah's penalty was also the earliest goal from the spot in the Champions League since Werder Bremen's Johan Micoud netted after one minute and 40 seconds against Panathinaikos in 2006.

Liverpool's attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino is the best in Europe according to former Reds forward Dirk Kuyt, who said his former club "deserve a trophy" for their achievements this season.

As Jurgen Klopp prepared his players for Saturday's Champions League final against Tottenham in Madrid, Kuyt waxed lyrical about the strength of a Liverpool side that scored just six goals fewer than Premier League champions Manchester City in 2018-19.

Salah, Mane and Firmino scored 56 of Liverpool's 89 league strikes between them and they head into Saturday's final having notched four each in the Champions League across the course of the campaign.

Kuyt told France Football he had seen a marked improvement in the trio's performances, saying: "I think Mane, Salah and Firmino were even stronger than last season.

"All three were incredible. When Salah did not score, Mane did, and vice versa.

"I would say that this offensive trio is the best in Europe right now."

Kuyt, who scored 71 goals in 285 appearances for Liverpool during a six-year spell at Anfield, said the current side benefits from not having a single focal point in its attack.

The former Netherlands international was the club's top goal-scorer with 12 league goals in his first season on Merseyside in 2006-07, and Liverpool were heavily reliant upon Fernando Torres in the years that followed.

But Kuyt hailed the interplay between Salah, Mane and Firmino, saying: "When they play together, they score goals but are not individualistic. They all have the potential to score, and that makes a big difference.

"If you have a more selfish attacker, maybe he'll score more goals. But together, they create crazy goals, it's great to see!

"They deserve so much a trophy for all that they have achieved."

Supporting cast members played essential roles as Liverpool and Tottenham mounted incredible comebacks to reach the Champions League final and now the time has come for the stars to shine.

Divock Origi helped to bury Barcelona, Lucas Moura left Ajax in ruins and yet neither semi-final hero has been able to squeeze into our combined XI of the individuals aiming to snatch the headlines this Saturday.

Harry Kane, an increasingly strong chance to feature at the Wanda Metropolitano, also sits out on this occasion with Opta data employed to aid the tough calls in areas of extreme depth.

Extra attention has been paid to performances in Europe and led to the creation of a high-performing team blessed with top talent from back to front.

 

Alisson

Liverpool would not have made it out of their group were it not for Alisson, who produced a superb save to preserve a slender one-goal lead in the closing stages against Napoli in December.

In that moment, the Brazil international – who finished the Premier League season with the Golden Glove having kept the most clean sheets – showed the value of spending big on a position of need.

 

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Liverpool's right-back gets the nod ahead of fellow England international Kieran Trippier. The Tottenham defender was superb for England at the 2018 World Cup but has not hit those same heights this season for his club and was left out of Gareth Southgate's squad for the Nations League Finals.

Alexander-Arnold has had his difficult moments too, and Jurgen Klopp opted to pick Joe Gomez ahead of him for the first leg of the semi-final against Barca. However, the 20-year-old is a key outlet for the Reds in attack, giving him the nod over his compatriot in this XI.

 

 

Virgil van Dijk

Can £75million be considered a bargain? When Liverpool agreed to stump up a record fee for a defender to get Van Dijk from Southampton, some questioned the figure for a player whose only previous Champions League experience had come at Celtic.

The Dutchman has turned out to be worth every last penny, becoming a colossal figure at the heart of Liverpool's defence despite a shuffling of the deck next to him due to injuries.

 

Jan Vertonghen

Vertonghen has been through the wars in this season's Champions League. The Belgian suffered a head injury in the first meeting with Ajax, leading to him being helped off the field before half-time, then played through the pain of an ankle injury as Spurs sealed a stunning comeback in stoppage time of the return fixture.

He made six more interceptions than team-mate Toby Alderweireld in two fewer appearances and shone in the efficient last-16 triumph over Borussia Dortmund, scoring one and creating another of the three first-leg goals.

 

Andy Robertson

Completing an all-Liverpool full-back pairing, Robertson makes the line-up after underlying his qualities in another superb campaign. His raids down the left caused Sergi Roberto all sorts of problems in the first leg against Barcelona, even if the Spanish side did come out on top.

Playing against Real Madrid a year ago in Kiev capped a remarkable debut season for Robertson on Merseyside. Now, 12 months on, he has established himself as one of the best full-backs in Europe.

 

Jordan Henderson

Klopp might find players knocking on his door more often after captain Henderson's request for fewer defensive responsibilities led to the rebirth of a high-energy, creative influence at the heart of a midfield that, in modern parlance, needed verticality.

An outstanding display in the quarter-final victory against Porto at Anfield in April heralded a box-to-box role as Henderson's best and, with a high tackle success rate of 81.25 per cent, Liverpool have lost none of the England international's combativeness.

 

Moussa Sissoko

From transfer flop to cream of the crop – the 2018-19 season has seen quite a turnaround for Sissoko, a midfielder with endless energy but who has also demonstrated his technical abilities, too.

Lucas' star turn at the Johan Cruijff ArenA could not have occurred without Sissoko harrying every Ajax player in sight and it is his superior passing and tackling numbers to James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum that are enough for a place in this three-man engine room.

 

Christian Eriksen

Kane's irregular availability through injury left others at Tottenham to pick up the slack in attack and Eriksen took the initiative, the Dane scoring twice and assisting four in the run to the final.

The 27 chances he created in 11 appearances account for more than Henderson and Roberto Firmino combined and proved the rumoured Real Madrid target as a player belonging to Europe's top bracket.

 

Sadio Mane

Patrolling the right flank is the dependable, incisive and indefatigable Mane, who has appeared in each of the Reds' 12 outings in Europe this term and been an inspirational figure.

In surely the best of his three seasons since arriving from Southampton, the unselfish Senegal winger has been responsible for creating 16 chances in the Champions League, more than each of the attackers angling for a place in this side's front three.

 

Son Heung-min 

England captain Kane's return to fitness presents something of a selection quandary for Mauricio Pochettino that seemed unthinkable until Son began tearing holes through opposition defences both domestically and on the continent.

In the South Korea star, the Spurs boss has an intelligent, agile forward who seems to relish playing centrally and supplies key goals in big games. His first in the quarter-finals against Manchester City tipped the balance in Tottenham's favour; the next two helped to torpedo the Premier League champions.

 

Mohamed Salah

Substituted in tears after damaging his shoulder in a tangle with Sergio Ramos this time last year, the stage is now set for Salah to enjoy a more fitting finale to another fine campaign.

The brilliant Egypt forward's four Champions League goals this time around included the crucial winner against Napoli that propelled Liverpool into the knockout rounds, and he will hope another can overwrite the images of his agony in the 2018 defeat to Madrid.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah is dreaming of scoring the winning goal in the Champions League final as he looks to banish last season's nightmare.

Salah and Liverpool will contest back-to-back Champions League finals when they face Premier League rivals Tottenham in Madrid on Saturday.

Liverpool lost 3-1 to Real Madrid last year – a result headlined by a shoulder injury to Salah that forced the Egyptian forward off the field in tears in Kiev.

But fast forward 12 months and Salah – who has scored 26 goals in all competitions this season – is determined to put the 2018 heartbreak behind him.

"I am so happy that I have the chance to play another final. I hope I can play the full game this time," Salah told beIN SPORTS.

"I am very excited for that. I hope we can right what happened last season, get a good result and win the competition."

Asked if he dreamed of scoring the winner for Liverpool, Salah replied: "Not just dream. I hope it becomes a reality and I score in the final, then win the African Cup of Nations [being played in Egypt next month] too."

Salah added: "This is our second final in a row. We lost the first but everything feels better this time around and we have more experience than last time.

"We are all looking forward and we had a good preparation period in Spain. We are back in Liverpool and we are feeling very motivated as players and coaching staff. I hope we can win it this time.

"We had great preparations in Spain and it was a good time to prepare there. The team is now at the best level physically. So I hope this stop was an advantage for us in the final."

The Premier League is over again for another season with fans having to wait until August 10 to get their fix of top-flight action.

Manchester City can reflect on becoming the first team to retain the title in a decade, having held off the strong challenge from Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp's side recorded the third-highest points total in Premier League history but it was still not enough to dethrone City.

Omnisport takes a look at some of the best Opta numbers from another gripping season of Premier League football.

44 - Ilkay Gundogan's goal for City in November's Manchester derby completed a stunning 44-pass move - more than any goal in the Premier League this term.

96:52 - City also scored the latest goal in the 2018-19 Premier League. Gabriel Jesus' header deep into added time at Goodison Park earned a 2-0 win at Everton in February.

00:07 - At the other end of the scale, Southampton striker Shane Long broke the record for the fastest Premier League goal when he netted against Watford after seven seconds last month. It was one of five goals scored in the opening minute, with City's Sergio Aguero hitting two of them.

0 - Relegated Fulham were the only side to finish the season without claiming a single point from matches against the 'Big Six' of City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham.

22 - With 22 points from their 10 matches against fellow teams from the capital (seven wins, one draw), Chelsea won the all-London mini-league featuring the Blues, as well as Spurs, Arsenal, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Fulham, who failed to get any points in those games either.

31 - Eden Hazard scored 16 Premier League goals and provided 15 further assists, earning the Playmaker of the Year award and topping the table for goal involvements. He was involved in 49.2 per cent of league goals scored by Chelsea this term, indicating why they are so keen to keep him amid reported strong interest from Real Madrid.

9 - Not only did Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah share the Golden Boot, they each opened the scoring in nine Premier League matches, more than anyone else in the top flight during the 2018-19 campaign.

19 - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also got a Golden Boot for his 22 Arsenal goals. They won a total of 19 points for Unai Emery's men, six more than any other Premier League player this term.

-0.44 - David de Gea's poor form is mirrored in the Opta numbers, which show his goals prevented figure at just -0.44, only the 18th best in the league. By contrast, West Ham's Lukasz Fabianski topped the table on 12.69 goals prevented despite actually letting in 54, excluding own goals.

86 - Watford midfielder Etienne Capoue intercepted the ball more times than any other player this season. Cardiff City defenders Sol Bamba and Bruno Ecuele Manga both managed 81 interceptions despite the Bluebirds suffering relegation from the Premier League.

3,119 - Perhaps unsurprisingly, Chelsea's Jorginho played more passes than anyone else in the Premier League, with Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk the only other man to reach 3,000. Jorginho's accuracy was also a commendable 89.23 per cent in his first season in English football.

12 - Manchester United were awarded more penalties than any other Premier League side, but only converted nine of them. Palace scored from 10 of the 11 spot-kicks they were awarded in 2018-19.

29 - Ralph Hasenhuttl steered Southampton to safety, but there is one obvious area of improvement for next season. The Saints lost a potential 29 points from winning positions, while Leicester City only let three points slip. Liverpool's 16 points won from losing positions was the league's highest.

141 - Liverpool were top of the league for 141 days of the Premier League season, compared to City's 125, but Pep Guardiola's side were at the summit when it counted. Chelsea led the league for nine days and United were top of the table for one.

15.63 - The best shot conversion record in the Premier League belonged to Arsenal, who scored with 15.63 per cent of their efforts. Bournemouth and Burnley were also in the top five, behind Liverpool and City.

71 - The 2018-19 campaign saw only 71 draws, the lowest in any season in the history of the competition, while 34 per cent of matches ended in an away win, which also set a Premier League record.

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