A goalscoring milestone, a red card (and maybe another that should have been), a key player off through injury and four goals. Oh, plus a late and controversial VAR call, too. 

Yes, the 237th Merseyside derby pretty much had it all. 

An early kick-off following an international break may have raised concerns of a sluggish return in the Premier League, yet it soon became apparent that there would be no easing back into domestic duties at Goodison Park. 

Liverpool scored early through Sadio Mane but lost both Virgil van Dijk and their advantage not long after. Mohamed Salah did put the champions back ahead with a notable strike in the second half, but Everton once again responded to grab a draw. 

Dominic Calvert-Lewin's towering 81st-minute header was far from the end of the drama, though. 

The hosts had Richarlison sent off before Jordan Henderson appeared to have won it for the Reds, albeit with a helping hand from Jordan Pickford, whose earlier challenge on Van Dijk had ended the Dutchman's involvement, with the goalkeeper not punished due to an offside call. 

Yet, by the barest of margins, Mane was adjudged offside in the build-up when the play was checked at Stockley Park. No goal, then, meaning a point apiece and plenty of talking points and a host of interesting Opta facts. 

 

MANE STRIKES BUT HOSTS KEANE TO RESPOND 

Liverpool showed no signs of a delayed hangover from the stunning 7-2 loss to Aston Villa last time out, Mane - who had missed that game - getting the opener after two minutes and 15 seconds. 

It was the Reds' fastest ever goal in a Premier League derby, though Everton have done it quicker in the fixture - Olivier Dacourt scored after just one minute in April 1999 (though they went on to lose 3-2 at Anfield). 

Andrew Robertson provided the assist, the full-back's 14th since the start of the 2018-19 season; only Kevin De Bruyne (21) has managed more in the English top flight.

Yet the lead did not last for too long, Michael Keane heading in James Rodriguez's delivery for his third goal of the season in the 19th minute, making it the earliest both teams had scored in a derby clash since November 2013. 

SALAH REACHES CENTURY IN STYLE 

Salah scored in the 72nd minute, the 100th goal of his Liverpool career in his 159th appearance - only Roger Hunt and Jack Parkinson have made it to the century in fewer appearances for the club. 

The Egyptian's instinctive finish when a loose ball fell into his path had Jurgen Klopp's side on course for all three points but, while they are unbeaten in their last 23 meetings against Everton in all competitions - their longest run against a single opponent in history, they were unable to hold on in their neighbours' backyard. 

Calvert-Lewin climbed high to nod in Lucas Digne's deep cross, his 12th headed goal in the Premier League since the start of the 2018-19 season. No other player has managed more than that total. 

Having also struck on his England debut, the forward continued his fine start to the campaign, becoming the first Everton player to score in the first five league games of a season since Tommy Lawton, way back in 1938-39. 

Everton have now scored 322 headed goals in the Premier League, more than any other club. If Calvert-Lewin is on target again next time out, with Everton up against Southampton, he will match Sergio Aguero's scoring streak of six matches, which the Manchester City striker managed at the start of 2019-20. 

RICHARLISON SEES RED IN EVENTFUL FINISH 

If Pickford was saved from being sent off by a technicality, there was no sparing Richarlison after he lunged in on Thiago Alcantara. 

The Brazilian stayed down injured for a short while after the tackle, but treatment only delayed the inevitable. His red card is the 22nd in Premier League meetings between the Merseyside clubs, unsurprisingly the most in the competition. Everton, by the way, have accounted for 15 of those dismissals. 

Liverpool appeared to have capitalised on the advantage of having an extra man when Henderson's rather weak first-time finish was only palmed beyond the line by Pickford, only for the use of technology to wipe out what appeared to be a last-gasp winner. 

The VAR call denied the visitors, though Klopp will also be aware this was a fourth league game in five without a clean sheet. They have conceded 13 goals at the start of their title defence – they did not leak that many in the previous campaign until 15 games in. 

The potential absence of Van Dijk will not help in the quest to tighten up at the back, particularly with goalkeeper Alisson also sidelined through injury. 

As for Everton, they remain unbeaten and while their 100 per cent record is no more, there are positive signs for boss Carlo Ancelotti and the fans for the months ahead. They still have not led in any of their last 14 Premier League matches against their rivals, but are now unbeaten in four derbies at home, all of which have finished as draws. 

Liverpool were controversially denied a Merseyside derby victory as Jordan Henderson saw a late winner ruled out by VAR in a 2-2 draw with 10-man Everton. 

Premier League leaders Everton twice came from behind to level in an absorbing contest at Goodison Park. 

Michael Keane cancelled out Sadio Mane's third-minute opener and Dominic Calvert-Lewin did the same after Mohamed Salah scored his 100th goal for Liverpool. 

Richarlison was sent off for a rash challenge on Thiago Alcantara and that indiscretion looked to have been doubly punished in injury time by Henderson, only for VAR to intervene and keep Everton three points ahead of Liverpool, who are unbeaten in 23 Merseyside derbies in all competitions, at the top of the table. 

 

 

Mohamed Salah's goal in Saturday's Merseyside derby took on added significance for the Liverpool star.

Salah's effort at Goodison Park marked his 100th in all competitions since joining the Reds in 2017.

He has emphatically shaken off the tag of Premier League flop following his failed spell at Chelsea and is now of European football's top forwards.

Here, using Opta data, we break down his century of Liverpool goals in all competitions.

 

A DEADLY DEBUT SEASON

Salah hit the ground running in his first season with the Reds, scoring 44 goals and providing 14 assists in all competitions.

He has never come close to matching that tally - scoring 27 and 23 in the last two campaigns - with his minutes per goal ratio of 93.6 from 2017-18 comfortably the best of his Liverpool career.

The Egypt forward averaged 160.6 minutes per goal in his second season and a goal every 176.3 in 2019-20.

PROWESS IN THE BOX

Exceptional with the ball at his feet, Salah has the ability to weave around defenders at will.

However, long-range individual efforts have not been a prominent feature of his goalscoring exploits since joining Liverpool.

Indeed, 10 have come from inside the box, including 11 penalties. As many as 80 of his goals have been scored with his left foot compared to just 16 with his right, while he has netted four headers.

FIRMINO THE FULCRUM

The creative fulcrum of Liverpool's front three, Roberto Firmino has been the most frequent provider for Salah.

Firmino has assisted 16 of Salah's goals, with Sadio Mane playing the key final pass on nine occasions.

Liverpool's full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold (six) and Andrew Robertson (eight) have combined to set up the former Chelsea and Roma forward 14 times. 

SALAH FULL OF VITALITY

Anfield is obviously Salah's happiest hunting ground, he has found the net 63 times at his home stadium.

Away from Merseyside, the Vitality Stadium is the ground where he has been most prolific, with Salah scoring five goals in three games at that venue.

It is no surprise, therefore, that Bournemouth are among his favourite opponents. 

Salah has scored eight times against the Cherries, a tally he has only matched against Watford.

KANE HIS CLOSEST CHALLENGER

Since August 2017, no Premier League player has scored more than Salah's 100 goals in 159 appearances.

Harry Kane is closest with 97 in 130 appearances, putting him on track make it to 100 in much quicker time.

Salah is the fifth player in Europe's top five leagues to reach a century in that time, joining Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ciro Immobile.

However, he does not come close to matching Lewandowski's goalscoring prowess, the Bayern Munich forward scoring 140 goals in 146 games.

Mohamed Salah chalked up a century of Liverpool goals by scoring in the Merseyside derby - becoming the fastest to reach three figures for the Reds in over 50 years. 

The Egyptian attacker has been a revelation in Jurgen Klopp's team and scored his 100th goal for the club in what was his 159th appearance. 

It made him the 17th player in Liverpool's history to get to three figures, and the first to reach the landmark since Steven Gerrard achieved the feat in 2008 on his way to 186 career goals with the Merseyside giants. 

Only two players have reached a century of goals for Liverpool in fewer appearances, with Roger Hunt hitting that mark in 144 games on his way to scoring 285 times for the club from 1958 to 1969. 

Jack Parkinson, who played for Liverpool from 1903 to 1914, reached 100 goals in 153 games. He finished with 129 goals in 220 games. 

Former Chelsea and Roma forward Salah, 28, joined Liverpool in 2017 and helped them win the Champions League in 2018-19 and the Premier League last season. 

James Rodriguez's move to Everton invoked polarising opinions from fans and pundits alike – it seemed his signing was either destined to be a masterstroke or an expensive flop.

Many suggested that, while undoubtedly gifted, James' qualities were those of a bygone era when teams were built around a number 10 whose only real job was to create chances and score goals.

The common conception was that, in introducing a player who does little work off the ball, Everton were putting themselves at a disadvantage to every other team.

Even James himself recognises he is one of a dying breed, saying recently on the Locker Room podcast: "Everyone plays 4-4-2 or 4-3-3, hardly any kids want to be a number 10 now, because now the number 10s are being left out by the managers because they only want fast players who have one-on-one skills, can run, can play through the middle - 15 or 20 years ago, everyone wanted to be a number 10."

It's a well-known fact that James isn't much of a runner – he will never cover as much ground as someone like Kevin De Bruyne, but that's the point. He hasn't ever been that type of player – let him play to his strengths and he'll thrive.

If anyone knew how to get the best out of him, it was his former Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, and the Italian has expertly found a way to get the best out James, as we examine ahead of Saturday's Merseyside derby.

Ancelotti's James bond key to success

While James is certainly acting like the traditional number 10 for Everton, he's playing the role with his own unique spin, a way that has regularly seen both he and Juan Fernando Quintero thrive alongside each other at international level for Colombia.

Normally one would expect a player in such a role to occupy more of the central spaces, yet James operates initially from the right, allowing him to cut inside on to his left foot.

This creates a much greater area for him to do damage, as he can either dribble into the centre, play a diagonal pass out to the left, or look for a reverse ball into an advanced position on the right.

 

Not only is the pitch generally less crowded for him in this area, but were he deployed in a strictly central role, having such range of passing avenues without needing to turn would be unlikely.

This explains why Lucas Digne – who went off with a knee injury late in France's Nations League victory over Croatia on Wednesday – is the second most frequent receiver of passes (23) from James in the Everton team despite operating on the other flank, as the left-back is one of Premier League's best creators.

James knows this and regularly looks to the Frenchman on the opposite flank – together, they are Everton's greatest sources of chances this term (12 for James, eight for Digne). Similarly, the former Madrid star has picked out left-sided forward Richarlison for more chances (five) than he has anyone else.

But another key factor Ancelotti has had to consider, as highlighted already, is that James won't offer a huge amount when the Toffees aren't in possession.

Ancelotti surrounds James with hard-working, dynamic players. Allan is as tenacious as any midfielder in the league, while Abdoulaye Doucoure is a fine option as a box-to-box battler and Seamus Coleman is tireless at right-back.

 

With Doucoure and Coleman working close to James, Ancelotti's table-toppers often create overloads on the right flank, and as that attracts more defenders over to their side, that's when gaps can open up on the left for Digne.

Identifying the weakness

As much as Everton fans may not want to admit, there are certainly similarities between how they and Liverpool attack – the Reds' full-backs are key to the offensive phase of their play, while Mohamed Salah's cutting in off the left flank is a vital component in terms of chance creation.

With that in mind, it will be intriguing to see how they counteract each other's strengths, but there's no doubt stopping James will go a long way for the Reds.

The Colombian has three goals (joint fourth-highest in the league) and two assists (joint third-highest in the league) to his name, while only Salah, De Bruyne (both 14) and Son Heung-min (13) have produced more key passes than him.

Of the 12 opportunities carved out by Rodriguez, four were classed by Opta as "big chances", second to Harry Kane (six).

But he's not just involved at the end of attacking moves, as highlighted by sequence data – he has played a role in six different goal-ending sequences, a figure bettered by only four others, while James started two of them. Ollie Watkins (three) is the solitary player with a better number here.

Where Liverpool will need to pay particular attention, however, is with regards to their high line. The average distance from goal that their open-play sequences begin is 49.2 metres, meaning they play with a higher defensive line than anyone else in the division – this was exploited by Aston Villa in the 7-2 humiliation before the international break, and James will surely be mindful.

Uncharted territory… almost

James' importance to Everton is certainly comparable to Salah's influence on Liverpool – across all competitions the Toffees playmaker has created three more chances (17) than his rival, been involved in one more goal (six) and played the same number of passes into the box (31).

But where their different approaches are accentuated is their total touches in the area, with Salah at 47 and James on 10.

That's where others come in.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison may not have quite the same reputation as their Liverpool counterparts in Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, but there's no doubt the Everton pair have both started the season in exhilarating fashion.

So, although James is undoubtedly the key, Everton have several weapons capable of doing damage.

Saturday's game will be exactly 10 years on from Everton's last Premier League win over their bitter rivals. While a victory over the Reds might almost feel like uncharted territory for the Toffees, with James plotting their route, one has to think they've never had a better opportunity to sink a Liverpool side whose weaknesses have already been exposed.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has started 2020-21 in outstanding form for Everton, leading to the possibility of an England debut in the coming days. 

Having managed nine goals in six appearances across all competitions this season, Calvert-Lewin is the leading scorer in Europe's top five leagues. 

He leads a list which also includes Tottenham pair Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland, Bayern Munich great Robert Lewandowski and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. 

Calvert-Lewin's reward is a first call up to the England senior squad ahead of the friendly with Wales, which is followed by Nations League clashes with Belgium and Denmark. 

But just how does Calvert-Lewin compare to his England team-mates, and what are the numbers behind his brilliant run under Carlo Ancelotti? 

THE FERGUSON FACTOR AND CARLO'S MAGIC TOUCH

A wiry and energetic youngster, Calvert-Lewin's versatility and work ethic may have set him back in his early years at Everton, with Ronald Koeman, David Unsworth and Sam Allardyce all utilising the forward in a variety of positions. Indeed, new Barcelona boss Koeman even deployed Calvert-Lewin as a wing-back in Everton's opening league match of 2017-18.

Whether as a foil for Romelu Lukaku, Wayne Rooney or Cenk Tosun in those first two campaigns, Calvert-Lewin often played second fiddle to another striker and his goal figures reflected as much. He managed four in 28 appearances under Koeman, three in 19 under Allardyce and two in eight with Unsworth in temporary charge. 

Marco Silva's tenure brought about Calvert-Lewin's first real chance to grasp his place as Everton's starting striker. He played 54 games and scored 13 times – averaging a goal every 209 minutes under the former Hull City boss, though consistency still alluded him, with his main task being to stretch opposing defences to benefit team-mates Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson. 

Yet Silva's departure after a dismal derby defeat to Liverpool last December signalled a change in fortunes for Calvert-Lewin, as Everton legend Duncan Ferguson called on the club's number nine to deliver. 

"To have someone who's been there and done it to bounce ideas off him has been invaluable, I couldn't thank him enough," Calvert-Lewin said of Ferguson in an interview with Everton's website. "He knows me well enough now to know when I need an arm around me, or need a pointer here or there." 

He has hardly looked back since and, after scoring a double in Ferguson's first game in charge, Calvert-Lewin swiftly became a key figure for Ancelotti. 

Since Ancelotti took over on December 22, 2019, only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (18) has scored more Premier League goals than the 23-year-old, who has 17 – level with Kane.

A FRESH START 

While Everton's form pre-lockdown ticked up under Ancelotti, the Toffees managed just three wins from their nine matches after the restart, with Calvert-Lewin failing to add to his 13 goals. 

Tame displays against Tottenham, Wolves and Bournemouth on the final day forced the club's hand, with Ancelotti overseeing a rebuild of the engine room in the transfer window – Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure bringing athleticism and nous, with James Rodriguez providing a much-needed sprinkling of stardust. 

With a revamped midfield behind him, Calvert-Lewin has scored in every appearance he has made bar one, against Fleetwood Town in the EFL Cup. 

Since the restart in June, Calvert-Lewin has made 15 appearances and netted nine goals in all competitions, scoring on average a goal every 132 minutes. That is a better rate than Vardy (139) and Salah (144), though some way behind his fellow England forwards Kane (15 goals, averaging out at one every 92 minutes) and Raheem Sterling (14 and 97). 

His Ferguson-esque header against Brighton and Hove Albion moved him to seven headed league goals since the start of last season, more than any other player, while he scored two hat-tricks in successive Goodison Park appearances prior to Everton's 4-2 win over the Seagulls.

MOVING ON UP

It was no surprise to see Calvert-Lewin included in the England squad, but he must now prove himself on the international stage. 

Since Ancelotti arrived at Everton, Ollie Watkins is the only Englishman currently playing in the Premier League to have scored more than Calvert-Lewin, though 13 of Watkins' goals in that period came in the Championship for Brentford. 

Kane, with 17 goals from 21 appearances, has matched the Everton player’s output, while Manchester City star Sterling has 16 in 31. 

Danny Ings has been a real success story over the past year but the Southampton forward has managed two fewer goals than Calvert-Lewin, while 2019-20 Golden Boot winner Jamie Vardy sits on 11, equal with Manchester United youngster Mason Greenwood and West Ham's Michail Antonio. 

Across Europe, Calvert-Lewin is the frontrunner as it stands, with his nine goals in 475 minutes played in 2020-21 leading the way across the continent's top five leagues. 

Kane and Hoffenheim's Andrej Kramaric are hot on his heels with eight each, while Son has seven to his name – though the Spurs duo have both played more minutes, 569 and 478 respectively. 

Bundesliga stars Haaland and Lewandowski have five apiece, with Salah – who goes head-to-head with Calvert-Lewin in the Merseyside derby on October 17 – also managing five from six games so far this term.

Now, Gareth Southgate needs to work out a way to get the best out of Calvert-Lewin with England, just as Ancelotti has at club level.

Liverpool could not have known the incredible journey that awaited them when the club hired Jurgen Klopp on this day five years ago.

Brendan Rodgers had recently been sacked with the Reds 10th in the Premier League, a far cry from their title challenge a year and a half earlier.

That bid for Premier League success in 2013-14 was something of an outlier, though. Despite their illustrious history, prior to 2014 Liverpool had only finished in the top two three times since winning their previous league championship in 1990.

Klopp came in with the goal of waking a proverbial sleeping giant, something he had managed to do at Borussia Dortmund, whom he guided to back-to-back Bundesliga titles after seven years outside of Germany's top four.

Liverpool fans' yearning and desire for domestic success was even greater, they will surely tell you, but with the aid of smart recruitment, a hint of patience and fine coaching, Klopp has turned the Reds into a force once again.

On the fifth anniversary of his appointment, we looked at the Opta data behind his success…

THE RECORD BOOKS

While domestic cup success continues to elude Klopp in England, it's fair to say Liverpool fans won't mind given the silverware that has been secured, namely the Champions League, Premier League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup.

That Premier League triumph last season was Liverpool's first since the competition ceased to be Division One. It ended a wait of 30 years to win the league championship.

A big part of their success last season was an 18-match winning streak, a joint record in English top-flight history, while they also went unbeaten in 44 games from January 2019 to February 2020.

The Reds' 24 consecutive home league wins from February last year to July 2020 is also a record, while they remain unbeaten in 61 games at Anfield, the third longest run in English top-flight history.

Liverpool remarkably collected 99 points last term, which was just one shy of the all-time benchmark set by Manchester City the previous season, when the Reds' 97 set a new high for second place.

Some might even feel Klopp has a case to be considered Liverpool's greatest manager, ahead of Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish. He has the best winning percentage of any Reds boss to have taken charge of at least 50 matches with 60.3 per cent (58.3 per cent for Dalglish, 57.4 per cent for Paisley).

And in terms of the Premier league, only Pep Guardiola (2.33) has averaged more points per game than the German (2.17), who edges out Alex Ferguson (2.16).

THE PLAYERS

One of the key elements to Klopp's Liverpool is that he has built a team in his image – "heavy metal" football, as he memorably dubbed it, reflects the manager's no-nonsense attitude but is also thrilling, full-on and uncompromising.

Of course, essential to that is the players – he has fielded 88 of them across all competitions, with 58 making their debut under him.

The first to be given a debut by Klopp was Connor Randall – now at Ross County – in an EFL Cup the month of his appointment, while the most recent is Diogo Jota.

No player comes close to Roberto Firmino as his most relied upon, however. The Brazilian, for all his critics over the past year, has played 242 games for Klopp, with 211 from the start – this amounts to 18,435 minutes.

Firmino also leads with regards to assists (54), though he's a fair way off Mohamed Salah in the goalscoring stakes, with the former on 78 and the Egyptian one shy of his century.

Nevertheless, that pair together with Sadio Mane (84) have accounted for 46 per cent of all goals scored under Klopp – they have become one of the deadliest attacks in Europe.

Unfortunately for Klopp, the result closest to his anniversary was his worst with the Reds, as they astonishingly lost 7-2 at Aston Villa on Sunday.

It was the first time since 1963 that Liverpool conceded seven goals in a match, but up next after the international break is the Merseyside derby against an Everton side top of the table – what better opportunity to bounce back?

Ollie Watkins struck a first-half hat-trick and Jack Grealish starred as Aston Villa claimed an incredible 7-2 victory over Premier League champions Liverpool on Sunday. 

Liverpool were without first-choice goalkeeper Alisson due to a shoulder injury and paid the price for some shambolic defending at Villa Park, with John McGinn adding to Watkins' treble in a rampant opening period for Dean Smith's men. 

Mohamed Salah doubled his tally either side of deflected goals for debutant Ross Barkley and Grealish, who contributed three assists in a brilliant display. 

Grealish added another as Villa had unending joy in springing the offside trap against Liverpool's high line, with the Reds conceding seven for the first time since a 7-2 loss to Tottenham in April 1963. 

Adrian's hopes of keeping a clean sheet were dashed within four minutes when his wayward pass to Joe Gomez was seized upon by Grealish, who squared for Watkins to slot home. 

Liverpool did not get a penalty for McGinn's contentious challenge on Salah, while Emiliano Martinez saw a similar error to Adrian's go unpunished before Watkins latched onto another Grealish pass and fired into the top-right corner. 

Salah halved the deficit, yet Villa's two-goal cushion was restored two minutes later when McGinn's wickedly deflected volley found the bottom-left corner. 

Watkins completed his treble before the first half was out by turning home Trezeguet's cross and former Everton midfielder Barkley extended their lead 10 minutes after the restart, aided by a significant touch off Trent Alexander-Arnold. 

Salah swept in a cool finish in the 60th minute but any hopes of a late charge were quickly extinguished by a Grealish strike that hit Fabinho to wrongfoot Adrian. 

Adrian managed to stop Watkins netting a fourth before Grealish made the most of a baffling decision to try to catch him offside on the halfway line, scoring his second. 

Watkins rattled the crossbar in the 85th minute but Liverpool were already set to suffer one of the most remarkable defeats in Premier League history. 

 
What does it mean? A first for Klopp 

Villa were in searing form and became the first team to put at least four goals past Liverpool in the opening half of a Premier League game since Klopp took charge in October 2015. 

In fact, the only time the Reds have conceded four in the opening period of a game in any competition during the German's tenure came on the same ground, when they went down 5-0 to Villa in the EFL Cup quarter-finals. 

However, on that occasion it was a second-string line-up and Klopp was not even in the dugout, as the first-team squad were away at the Club World Cup. 

Glorious Grealish 

Watkins may have become the first player to score a Premier League hat-trick against Liverpool since Dimitar Berbatov in 2010, but he could not have done it without Grealish. The midfielder had multiple assists in the same top-flight game for the first time and created a total of five chances for his team-mates. 

Awful Adrian 

With Alisson to be assessed "week by week", Klopp will be desperate to have him back as soon as possible. In his 21 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool, Adrian has now committed five errors leading directly to goals. Alisson has the same amount in 92 such games. 

What's next? 

Liverpool will hope to get back on track after the international break with a Merseyside derby against Everton, while Villa face Leicester City next. 

Lionel Messi has retained his place at the top of Forbes' list of highest-paid footballers after earning $126million over the past year, with Cristiano Ronaldo closely behind him in second. 

The Barcelona superstar sent shockwaves through world football last month when he told the club he has spent his entire career at he wanted to leave after a trophyless campaign in 2019-20.

Messi believed he could use a clause in his contract to leave for free, but Barca and LaLiga disputed that claim and insisted his deal could only be terminated should his €700m release clause be paid.

Amid frustration with the Camp Nou board, Messi performed a U-turn and elected to stay with the embattled LaLiga giants for at least the 2020-21 campaign.

He does so as the highest paid footballer in the world after earning $126million in salary and endorsements over the past 12 months.

His long-time rival Ronaldo is second on the list after bringing in earnings of $117m. 

Paris Saint-Germain stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are third and fourth respectively, with Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah in fifth place.

Making up the rest of the top 10 are French World Cup winners Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, Real Madrid outcast Gareth Bale, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea.

 

Forbes' top 10 highest-paid footballers:

1. Lionel Messi - $126m
2. Cristiano Ronaldo - $117m
3. Neymar - $96m
4. Kylian Mbappe - $42m
5. Mohamed Salah - $37m
6. Paul Pogba - $34m
7. Antoine Griezmann - $33m
8. Gareth Bale - $29m
9. Robert Lewandowski - $28m
10. David De Gea - $27m

The Premier League returned last weekend in enthralling fashion.

From a seven-goal spectacle at Anfield to another London derby win for Arsenal, there was excitement to behold almost everywhere you looked (unless you were looking for Harry Kane in the Everton penalty area, where he touched the ball twice).

We saw Mohamed Salah set a new Premier League record, a rotten moment for Virgil van Dijk and a lousy start to life back in the big time for the three promoted clubs - although they do have a reason not to be too worried.

By now, you're probably wondering why Steven Fletcher was in the headline. Fear not, dear reader: like a Premier League referee spotting that mysterious VAR screen on the touchline, you'll soon see there's a reason for everything.

Read on for some of the quirkiest facts from the first weekend of the 2020-21 season...

KEEP THE FAITH, NEW BOYS

Leeds United lost 4-3 to champions Liverpool in an absolute belter at Anfield, while Fulham and West Brom each suffered rather more one-sided 3-0 defeats to Arsenal and Leicester City.

Those results mean this is the first season since 2013-14 in which the three promoted sides all lost their opening Premier League matches.

There's no need to fret just yet, though. Of those teams seven years ago - Crystal Palace, Hull City and Cardiff City - only Cardiff were relegated at the end of the season. Palace finished as high as 11th.

In case you wondered, no season has ever seen all three promoted sides win on matchday one in the Premier League.

 

PEN-FEST

Salah and Jamie Vardy each scored two penalties over a weekend featuring just five games. There was only one instance of a player scoring twice from the spot in a single match in last season's 380 Premier League games (Troy Deeney against Newcastle United).

In total, 54 players have scored two penalties in a match in Premier League history; nobody has ever managed three.

Only four players have suffered the ignominy of missing two spot-kicks in a single game: Mark Draper against Newcastle in August 1994, Juan Pablo Angel against Fulham in February 2005, Darren Bent versus Tottenham in April 2010, and Saido Berahino against Watford in April 2016.

 

VAN DIJK CHASING STONES 'RECORD'

Van Dijk's generous but perplexing decision to cushion the ball down and set up Patrick Bamford to score means he has now made two errors leading directly to goals in his past four league games. He only committed one such mistake in his first 154 Premier League appearances.

Since his Southampton debut on September 12, 2015, 13 outfield players have made more errors leading to goals in the Premier League than Van Dijk. He is in esteemed company on three, alongside the likes of Sol Bamba, Erik Pieters and, yes, David Luiz (and two above Harry Maguire).

He has some way to go to reach the top of this particular chart, though. Since Van Dijk's debut in the competition, John Stones and Granit Xhaka lead the way on six errors leading to goals.

 

FULHAM'S CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Fulham were soundly beaten 3-0 by Arsenal on Saturday, stretching their run in Premier League London derbies to 11 defeats in a row (they lost 10 in 2018-19). That's the worst record in history.

In the all-time top-flight London derbies table (yes, that one), Fulham sit on 126 defeats and 41 wins from 223 matches. That's as many victories as Crystal Palace, nine behind Wimbledon, and 19 fewer than Queens Park Rangers.

Top of that particular table is Arsenal, unsurprisingly, who have won 324 of their 691 capital clashes. Chelsea are next on 256 wins - just two above Tottenham.

Bottom of the pile are Leyton Orient, with two wins from eight games. So, Fulham fans - it could be worse.

 

STEVEN FLETCHER, LOSING IN STYLE

Salah's hat-trick inspired Liverpool's win over Leeds and saw him claim another slice of Premier League history.

The Egypt star has now been on the winning side in each of the past 35 league games in which he has scored, which is a record in the competition, one more than the previous best held by Wayne Rooney for Manchester United from September 2008 to February 2011.

As the old adage has it, goals win football games - unless your name is Steven Fletcher. The Scotland striker boasts the unenviable record of having scored in 10 consecutive matches for Wolves in 2011-12 without ever being on the winning side.

Barcelona are reportedly targeting Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.

Salah made a fine start to the Premier League season, scoring a hat-trick for Jurgen Klopp's men in a 4-3 win over Leeds United on Saturday.

Unsurprisingly, the forward is apparently wanted by LaLiga giants Barca.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA MAKE SALAH TOP TARGET

Barcelona have made Liverpool star Salah their top transfer target, according to the Express.

Salah and his Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane have often been linked with moves to Barca's rivals Real Madrid.

Since Ronald Koeman arrived to take charge at Camp Nou, Barca have been said to be interested to numerous forwards, including Lyon star Memphis Depay.

ROUND-UP

- Frustrated in their pursuit of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, Manchester United may look elsewhere. The Express reports the Premier League giants could make a move for Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale.

- Back at Camp Nou and Luis Suarez is expected to make an exit this close season. Mundo Deportivo reports Juventus – the most strongly linked to the forward – remain hopeful of signing Suarez.

- Could Christian Eriksen leave Inter after less than a year? CalcioMercato reports the Serie A giants are prepared to listen to offers for the midfielder.

- Inter may already have their replacement if the Denmark international leaves. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal is "one step away" from joining Inter.

- Emiliano Martinez looks set to leave Arsenal. Goal reports the goalkeeper is close to a £20million move to Aston Villa with a deal to be finalised in the coming days. Martinez has been at Arsenal since 2010.

Jurgen Klopp hailed Mohamed Salah as a "very special" player after the Liverpool star scored a hat-trick in a thrilling victory over Leeds United.

Marcelo Bielsa's newly promoted side pushed defending Premier League champions Liverpool all the way at Anfield on Saturday, but Salah had the final say when he converted his second penalty of the game to seal a 4-3 win.

Salah had opened the scoring from the spot early on after Robin Koch's handball, though Jack Harrison switfly equalised.

A frantic start continued as Virgil van Dijk swung the game back in Liverpool's favour, only to then gift Patrick Bamford an equaliser prior to a stunning strike from Salah restoring the Reds' lead, which was then cancelled out once more by Mateusz Klich.

It was Salah who settled matters from 12 yards with two minutes remaining and Klopp believes the Egypt forward's all-round display showed the true quality of Liverpool's talisman.

"First and foremost congratulations to him because he's a very special player very, very special player," said the Reds boss.

"The numbers tell the story a little bit, all the rest you probably don't know. But today's a very good example as he put three more goals on his score list, but the performance all-round was absolutely exceptional in a game like this.

"So he deserved the goals, 100 per cent, yes two were penalties, one was a sensational finish, but he deserved these goals because he was constantly present, causing the opponent massive problems.

"He was top in one-on-one situations, played football. With all the good performances he's had for us, obviously this was for sure one of the better ones and so he should be proud of that because it's very special to have these kinds of numbers. Long may it continue."

While Salah spearheaded Liverpool's fearsome attack, the Reds looked unusually ordinary at the back, with Van Dijk in particular struggling to find his rhythm.

Klopp, however, is not concerned, and suggested the fact all of his starting defenders had been away on international duty could have impacted their performance.

"I didn't really see us struggling defensively, it's just the way they play you cannot defend it 100 per cent all the time," Klopp said.

"The first goal both full-backs were deeper than the centre-halves, that should never have happened. The second goal I think was a misunderstanding between Virgil and Alisson, it was one of the things that can happen. It should not, but it can happen. I don't think we will see these situations very often.

"So that's defending, but it's not an excuse, it was just an explanation. And maybe I don't have to give explanations, but the last line played for England, Holland, and Scotland, four days ago or whatever.

"So, all top teams but different ways of defending and it can happen and if the things are not really settled, which we are in the early stages of the season.

"I know people say they played 500 games together, but defending is not like riding a bike. You have to work on it constantly. So space for improvement, all good."

Mohamed Salah drew on the experience of netting a penalty in the Champions League final to hold his nerve and seal a 4-3 win for Liverpool over Leeds United in a riotous opening Premier League encounter.

Salah struck from the spot early on at Anfield on Saturday, as he did in the Reds' 2-0 showpiece triumph over Tottenham in Madrid last year – a contest that proceeded fairly uneventfully from that point.

The opening game of their title defence cut a sharp contrast, with newly promoted Leeds playing in a fearless manner and equalising three times before Salah completed his hat-trick with a second conversion from 12 yards in the 88th minute.

Asked about how he handled that moment mentally by Sky Sports, the Egypt star replied: "I scored a penalty in a Champions League final, so that was a little bit easier! Especially with no fans.

"It was important for me to focus and score the goal to get three points."

Jack Harrison and Mateusz Klich scored excellent goals either side of Patrick Bamford capitalising upon a dreadful error from Virgil van Dijk, who headed Liverpool's second of a frantic clash, and Salah was full of admiration for Marcelo Bielsa's Championship winners.

"Leeds are a tough team, they press high as well, so the game intensity was really high as well," he said.

"They had a great game, they play away and react really well. They scored three goals against us, that's huge

"I'm happy about the result and we have to keep on improving. It's important for me to stay focused. We had a good game."

The Premier League and Championship titleholders produced a classic for the ages to launch the 2020-21 top-flight season in England.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp promised Leeds United a ferocious baptism in the Premier League and a procession looked to be on the cards at Anfield when Mohamed Salah scored an early penalty.

But Marcelo Bielsa's team dazzled as they have since the coaching visionary arrived in West Yorkshire, with Jack Harrison, Patrick Bamford and Mateusz Klich all on target.

Each Leeds goal was an equaliser but Salah had the final word when he netted his second penalty of the contest to secure the points in the 88th minute.

Here, we look back at how a trilling encounter unfolded on Merseyside.

3:58 – LIVERPOOL 1-0 LEEDS
The anticipated frenetic start was quickly realised and surpassed, with Liverpool seeking to stamp their authority over ambitious foes. Robin Koch looked unfortunate to be penalised when Salah's shot spun up off the defender's boot and into his arm, but referee Michael Oliver and his video assistant agreed a spot-kick should be given and Salah slammed home his 50th Premier League goal at Anfield in his 63rd appearance. Only Alan Shearer (47) has reached that landmark faster.

11:13 – LIVERPOOL 1-1 LEEDS
Leeds were not cowed and Helder Costa had a goal ruled out for offside before Manchester City loanee Harrison darted in from the left flank, beyond Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez, to drill into the bottom left corner. On the week of his England debut, Kalvin Phillips created the goal with a raking pass from his own half – the midfielder's first assist in 19 league games.

19:38 – LIVERPOOL 2-1 LEEDS
Debutant Koch could not blame the officials when he switched off and allowed Van Dijk to head home Andrew Robertson's corner. It was the Dutchman's 10th Premier League goal for Liverpool, with no other centre-back scoring more since his Reds debut in January 2018. Robertson's assist was his 29th since his own Liverpool bow. Only Kevin De Bruyne (38) has more over that period of time.

29:10 – LIVERPOOL 2-2 LEEDS
Joy became despair for Liverpool's defensive lynchpin, with an uncharacteristic misjudgement allowing Bamford to nip in and clip a finish into Alisson's goal. Well, we say uncharacteristic… Van Dijk has now made two errors leading directly to a goal in his past four Premier League games, double the one he made in his first 154 in the competition.

32:14 – LIVERPOOL 3-2 LEEDS
Salah had already equalled Teddy Sheringham's record of scoring on four consecutive Premier League opening days when he put Liverpool ahead for a third time. Robertson's free-kick was partially cleared and the Egypt superstar thundered a magnificent left-footed strike into the top right corner.

45:00+3 – HALF-TIME
And breathe. This Anfield thriller became only the second game played in the opening weekend of Premier League fixtures to yield five goals before half-time. The other was Manchester United's 5-1 win over Fulham in August 2006, where the Red Devils were 4-1 up at the interval.

65:47 – LIVERPOOL 3-3 LEEDS
Don't let any Liverpool players take your dog for a walk this week. Midway through the second half they let another lead slip from their grasp. Helder Costa found Klich in the Liverpool box, where the midfielder's wonderful first touch was matched by an unerring volley. Poland international Klich has six goal involvements in his past six away games, with three goals and as many assists.

87:28 – LIVERPOOL 3-4 LEEDS
Leeds became the first promoted side to score three goals away to the reigning Premier League champions since Hull City in a 4-3 defeat at Manchester United in November 2008. Unfortunately for Bielsa's men they went down to the same scoreline. New signing Rodrigo Moreno clumsily fouled Fabinho and Salah sent Illan Meslier the wrong way to claim the matchball. Liverpool have now won each of the last 35 games in which Salah has scored, bettering the competition record of 34 set by Wayne Rooney in February 2011.

Hat-trick hero Mohamed Salah saved the day for Liverpool after promoted Leeds gave the champions a huge scare in a 4-3 thriller on the opening day of the Premier League season.

The Reds striker struck a decisive 88th-minute penalty, his second spot-kick of the game at Anfield, to ensure last season's all-conquering side started the new campaign on a positive note.

In a battle between last season's Premier League and Championship winners, Salah's first two goals and one from Virgil van Dijk were countered by Leeds' replies from Jack Harrison, Patrick Bamford and Mateusz Klich.

A sub-plot to this Merseyside showdown was the tactical battle between managers Jurgen Klopp and Marcelo Bielsa, and the latter looked like coming away with a point until Rodrigo fouled Fabinho, allowing Salah to slot home and win the game.

Liverpool were awarded a penalty in the third minute when Salah's shot struck the outstretched right arm of Leeds debutant Robin Koch, via the unlucky defender's knee. Salah took responsibility from 12 yards and lashed his penalty high into the net, down the middle.

A sublime leveller from Leeds arrived in the 12th minute after new England cap Kalvin Phillips fed Harrison on the left. Harrison skipped infield, fending off Trent Alexander-Arnold, before drilling past Alisson from the edge of the penalty area.

The hosts restored their lead in the 20th minute when Van Dijk sprinted away from Koch and headed in Andy Robertson's corner from the left.

Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier made a fine save to spare Pascal Struijk the embarrassment of an own goal, tipping over after the defender deflected Robertson's cross, and the visitors briefly drew level for a second time when Bamford seized on sloppiness from Van Dijk to slot in.

Salah fired Liverpool 3-2 in front in the 33rd minute of a wild first half. With Robertson's free-kick into the heart of the penalty area only half-cleared, Liverpool's Egyptian striker had space and time to pick his spot and blaze a shot high into the right corner.

Those first-half strikes made Salah the first Liverpool player to score on the opening day of four consecutive Premier League seasons, and only the second player from any club to achieve the feat, after Teddy Sheringham's run from 1992-93 to 1995-96.

Leeds brought on record signing Rodrigo for his debut with half an hour remaining, and he would be involved later, but it was Klich who struck their third equaliser of the game in the 66th minute.

He took on a clever pass into the penalty area from Helder Costa on the right and smashed a shot into the left corner as the ball sat up perfectly. Leeds looked poised to hold on, only to be stung so late, an early warning of the challenges that lie ahead for them.

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