For once in a Champions League final, Cristiano Ronaldo will yield some of the spotlight to another player sweeping up adulation and personal acclaim. While five-time world player of the year Ronaldo is chasing a record fifth Champions League triumph, and fourth with Real Madrid, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is chasing a first. Not just a first Champions League success, but a first major title in football in his maiden cup final.
Victory in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on Saturday would be a fitting climax to an astonishing debut season at Liverpool for Salah. A season when the Egyptian seized his second chance at a Premier League club with gusto after a faltering spell at Chelsea.
Salah has had such a devastating impact that he poses a serious threat to the decade of dominance of the world player of the year award by Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
“Comparing players with Ronaldo and Messi is something you can’t do,” Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said on Friday. “They’re in another orbit. There are players who are in fashion, those who come and go and others who stay around.
“Salah is a top player, that’s clear. He’s shown that this year and he’s got a great chance to show that over the next few years as Ronaldo and Messi have done — but the day after tomorrow.”
While lacking the flashy touch of Ronaldo, and presenting the image of a more modest lifestyle on social media, the “Egyptian King” is as adept at harnessing his commercial appeal. In recent weeks, Salah could be found at news conferences promoting a cellphone company, a logistics firm and taxi service. No wonder Salah is making the most of his newly-elevated status in the global game. In 2014, when Ronaldo reached the first of his four Champions League finals with Madrid, Salah was just completing his first five months drifting in and out of the Chelsea team.
Salah never settled and was eventually discarded by the west London club after only 13 appearances under Jose Mourinho. In Italy, a career-stalling was reignited at Roma and Liverpool came calling last year.
With a mouth-watering contest on the cards between two of the biggest European clubs, here is all you need to know.
When and where will the Champions League final be played?
The Champions League final will be played between Real Madrid and Liverpool on Sunday, 26 May at Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex in Kiev.
International TV listings
Argentina – ESPN Sur, Fox Sports 2 Cono Sur
Brazil – Esporte Interativo
Croatia – Arena Sport 1
Egypt – beIN Sports HD4
France – beIN Sports 1
Germany – TeleClub Sport
Italy – PremiumSport HD
Netherlands – Ziggo Sport Select
Spain – beIN Sports Spain
United Kingdom – BT Sport 2
What’s at stake?
The most important trophy in Europe, one both teams know plenty about. Real Madrid has won it a record 12 times, including the last two years and three out of the last four. Meanwhile, Liverpool has won the title five times, more than any other team in England.
How they got here
Real Madrid finished second in Group H with 13 points, three behind Tottenham. Los Blancos then went on to knock off Paris Saint-German (5-2), Juventus (4-3) and Bayern Munich (4-3). It’s safe to say, they’ve been tested. Meanwhile, Liverpool won Group E with 12 points before taking care of Porto (5-0), Manchester City (5-1) and Roma (7-6). The Reds have had a much easier road to the final, but they’ve dominated in each round.
Real Madrid hasn’t lost a Champions League final since 1981, going six-for-six since then. How can you pick against them? They may not have done well in La Liga this season for their standard, but if they can win their third Champions League final in a row, it would mark the first team to three-peat since Bayern Munich in the mid 70s. But don’t discount Liverpool, who have exceeded every expectation this season. In the end, Los Blancos reign supreme once again. Real Madrid 3, Liverpool 1.