Mohamed Salah is outscoring Lionel Messi and is on course to re-write the Premier League record books

Alistair Tweedale
The Telegraph
Mohamed Salah needs three goals to equal the record for goals scored in a 38-game Premier League season - Telegraph
Mohamed Salah needs three goals to equal the record for goals scored in a 38-game Premier League season - Telegraph

Comparisons with Lionel Messi have already started, and why not?

Mohamed Salah has, after all, scored more goals than the five-time Ballon d'Or winner this season, despite playing in fewer games.

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He has outscored Messi despite more than eight hours less game time. He has outscored Messi despite attempting 78 fewer shots. He has outscored Messi in a team 18 points off the top of the table.

There is some way to go before their careers can reasonably be compared, given the Argentine last week surpassed 600 career goals, but there is no denying that Messi would be content with the heights Salah has been hitting in his first season at Liverpool.

Four goals against Watford on Saturday, including a couple of scarcely believable strikes after Messi-like dribbles down what had looked like blind alleys, took Salah to 28 for the season.

Four more goals in Liverpool's final seven games would set a new individual Premier League record in a 38-game season. Four more after that and Salah's 2017/18 would become the highest-scoring Premier League season ever, to include the three earliest seasons, where 42 games were played.

Most goals in a 38-game Premier League season | 1995-present

For a 20-goal striker, four goals in seven games would represent a significant challenge. This season, it's hard to see Salah failing to manage that.

He is well on course to beat the three players who share the record for the most goals since the Premier League was reduced to 20 teams: Alan Shearer in 1995/96 for Blackburn, Cristiano Ronaldo's penultimate season at Manchester United in 2007/08 and Luis Suarez at Liverpool in 2013/14.

Those three each scored 31 goals, a tally that had not so long ago seemed insurmountable. Until Salah came along, that is.

Ronaldo and Suarez both made slow starts to their record-breaking seasons. Ronaldo failed to score in his first four appearances and also missed three matches through suspension after a red card against Portsmouth. Incredibly, it wasn't until late September, eight games in, that Ronaldo scored his first goal of the season. 

Most goals in a 38-game Premier League season

Suarez, meanwhile, missed the first five games of 2013/14 through suspension, and was also made to wait until late September for his first goal of the season. Suarez later endured a four-game goal drought in February.

Salah's season has mirrored Shearer's 1995/96 more accurately. After scoring on his debut, Salah has scored consistently throughout the entire campaign.

Of the top 10 goal-scorers in a 38-game Premier League season (a list in which Salah is currently joint-ninth), Salah has suffered the shortest drought, at most going two games without a goal. Whether that means he will yet endure a longer drought remains to be seen.

Longest droughts suffered by top scorers in a 38-game Premier League season

However, at his current rate of scoring - a goal every 85.5 minutes in Premier League games - Salah would reach 35 goals. That would make his season the highest-scoring in the top flight of English football since Southampton's Ron Davies way back in 1966/67. At £1.3m per goal (so far), Salah has been a modern day bargain.

In all competitions he now has 36 goals to Messi's 35, despite two fewer appearances, scoring with 22.6 per cent of his shots, compared to 14.8 per cent for Messi.

Clearly, Salah is a long, long way off matching Messi's achievements, and whether the Egyptian can extend his form into a second, third or fourth season and beyond is a truer test of his abilities.

But in the context of this season, the fact that Salah has outscored Messi is worthy of note. In the context of Premier League goal-scoring, Salah's 2017/18 could be the greatest ever.

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