Roma President James Pallotta says they had no choice but to sell Mohamed Salah, and jokes “are the goals bigger in the Premier League?”
The Egyptian international joined Liverpool for €42m in the summer, and has since scored 41 goals in 46 games in all competitions.
The forward will face his old teammates in the Champions League semi-final first leg tonight, and the Giallorossi owner was asked about selling Salah in the summer.
“When you look at it now you could say ‘oh, unbelievable bargain’,” Palotta admitted, speaking to ESPN.
“The issue at the time was that when [sporting director] Monchi came in, Salah wanted to leave.
“I think he had a year left on his contract, so in another year you’d get nothing. He wanted to go back and prove himself in the Premier League which he certainly has done.
“I can’t tell you that anyone else was calling at the time for Salah at anywhere near that kind of price, so there’s a lot of teams that have missed out on a great player.
“Am I surprised by what he’s done this season. Honestly, yes. The reason is that we utilised him differently than Liverpool have, they figured out the best way to utilise him.
“At the time we had him as a winger and [Edin] Dzeko in the middle and Dzeko scored 36 goals himself last year, so it wasn’t like we didn’t have someone in there who was tearing up the league.
“What I’m surprised about is the way he’s finishing - do they have bigger nets in the Premier League? It’s been amazing watching him, and every time he scored I’m like ‘Oh… God’.
“He’s close to a lot of our players and I know our digital team tweeted out that those 180 minutes will be a war but he’s a friend for life and he responded right back.
“So there’s a good relationship there and I hope that he gets a great ovation when he comes back to Rome, I can’t see any reason why the fans wouldn’t give him a great ovation - at least at the beginning of the game.”
Pallotta was then asked if he was more nervous or excited for tonight’s game.
“It’s actually probably neither right now. It seems to be the calmest I’ve been for the five years with the team.
“When we played Barça in Rome I think it was the least amount of nerves I’ve had at any game because it was just all upside.
“I thought if we played well we had a shot, winning 3-0 like that was what we needed to do so I wasn’t nervous at all.
“I’m usually more nervous at regular games like this weekend, pacing my house and stuff.”
The American owner will be in the UK, but he won’t be at Anfield tonight. Why?
“I have my superstitions,” Pallotta explained.
“I didn’t go to the last game in Barcelona, and then went to the home game so I kind of keep doing those same things.
“Kiev? I know where it is on a map, but I haven’t been there. It’s a beautiful city, I’d like to go. It’s not a home game for us, but it’s not for whoever we might be lucky enough to play either, so I could live with that!”
Pallotta’s relationship with the fans hasn’t always been idyllic…
“I think when I first took over, our group took over - the Americans - there was a lot of ‘who are these Americans? Why are they coming here?’. A lot of issues like that.
“We needed to prove that we really weren’t in it for a short time, trying to make a quick buck that we really were trying to invest in Roma and built it into something.
“We’re still in the early stages in spite of the success we’ve had at least getting in to the Champions League in recent years, one Europa, then going to the semis.
“I think it was about proving and I can understand that I think things seem to be pretty good right now but, hey, give me another week.
“Where do I see Roma in five years? Have a stadium, win a Champions League, win a Scudetto, win a Coppa Italia and maybe… let me keep what little hair I have left!”
The President jumped in to a fountain after the win over Barcelona, receiving a fine from the council.
“The fine was nothing, €450 or something wasn’t that bad it was what I said afterward about giving €230,000 to fix the fountain in front of the pantheon.
“I think I’m done with the fountains, but there’s a lot other good stuff there…”
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