After an inspired performance for Vicenza against Chelsea in the 1998 European Cup Winners Cup semi-final, the then Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli dubbed winger Gabriele Ambrosetti as the ‘Italian Ryan Giggs’. Chelsea purchased Ambrosetti at the end of that season and in four years at the London club, Ambrosetti played only 16 league games, failing to score in any of them and spending long periods out on loan.
In the 2013-14 Champions League group stage, yet another winger, Mohamed Salah gave two inspired performances for his Swiss club Basel against Chelsea, scoring the equalizing goal at Stamford Bridge and the only goal in the return fixture at the St. Jacob Park stadium.
When the winter transfer window opened in January 2014, Salah, dubbed as the ‘Egyptian Messi’, was snapped up by Chelsea, who not for the first time were quick to purchase a player based on his performances against them.
During the second half of the 2013-14 season, Salah appeared 10 times for Chelsea in the Premier League, playing the full 90 minutes on two occasions. During that time, he scored twice and provided two assists, giving a man of the match performance against Stoke City.
In the first half of the 2014-15 season, Salah appeared for a total of only 30 minutes in the Premier League, appearing three times in cup competitions against lower league opposition. So it came as no surprise in January 2015, when Chelsea decided to offload their Egyptian ‘misfit’, loaning him to Serie A club Fiorentina and in return paid just over £23 million for the services of Colombian international winger Juan Cuadrado, who since joining Chelsea, has played a paltry 177 minutes in the league, without scoring a goal or providing an assist.
Under the management of Vincenzo Montella, Salah has played 379 minutes in Serie A, scoring four times and providing an assist, has played 380 minutes in the Europa League scoring once and providing an assist and has scored twice in the Coppa Italia against Juventus.
But it’s not only Salah’s statistics which have impressed, equally the quality of his performances and a number of spectacular goals which have already made him a firm favourite with the fans.
In order to compare the Mohamed Salah who appeared fleetingly and disappointingly in the Premier League, with the Mohamed Salah who has received rave reviews in Serie A, we have examined three different parameters.
Although primarily an attacker, Salah is also involved in the attacking build-up play, contributing to almost 8% of Chelsea’s attacking build-up play, but closer to 10% since joining La Viola.
Whether it’s about being a big fish in a small pond, a confidence issue or perhaps that Serie A is more suited to Salah than the Premier League, the young Egyptian has performed a significantly higher percentage (35.9%) of good actions for Fiorentina when helping to create attacks than during his time at Chelsea (28.6%).
The second parameter is Salah’s ability to create chances. At Chelsea his influence was peripheral, contributing to 19.7% of the team’s chances. Since his move to Italy, he has not only created a noticeably higher percentage (24.7%) of his team’s chances, but has been far more successful (42.1% .v. 28.9%) in converting attempts to create chances into actual chances.
The final and perhaps the most significant parameter extracted from the SportsMatrix database, has been the improvement in the quality of his dribbling skills when playing in violet.
At Chelsea, he was a more peripheral figure, perhaps intimidated by the presence of more illustrious players, such as Hazard, Willian and Schurrle. Here he contributed to only 17% of Chelsea’s dribbles; but since joining Fiorentina he has attempted more than 28% of his team’s dribbles.
Not only is he attempting more dribbles for Fiorentina, but more significantly the quality of his dribbles has been superior. At Chelsea, just over 30% of dribbles were regarded as being good; whilst at Fiorentina this figure is close to 40%.
So it should come as no surprise that Fiorentina have announced that they will be taking up the option to extend Salah’s loan into next season, with a view to making the move permanent in 2016.