Liverpool: The Africans who helped win the Premier League title

Liverpool: The Africans who helped win the Premier League title

Liverpool have won the Premier League – the first time they have triumphed in the English top flight since 1990, and their first time ever since the Premier League began. And it was powered by crucial players from Africa.

Here is how they contributed:

Mo Salah

Mo Salah scores against Manchester City
Salah’s goal against Manchester City was a pivotal moment in the title race

The Egyptian striker has been a cult hero at Anfield from his first season in 2017. Given he had not been that impressive for Chelsea in a previous spell in the Premier League, it had not been expected that he would be as astonishingly prolific as he turned out to be.

But in his first season, he scored 32 goals in 36 Premier League games. They finished 4th but made it to the Champions League Final against Real Madrid – only for Salah to be injured by a forceful challenge from Sergio Ramos.

It was clear that if Liverpool were going to end their 30-year wait to win the title, Salah would be a key part of it – and so it has proved.

The second-top scorer this season with 17, Salah got the crucial second in the absolutely critical 3-1 win over Manchester City in November.

It had been defeat to City in the previous season that had cost Liverpool the title that time around. This time, Salah’s header was the moment that put the Reds in a position from which they were never going to lose.

Salah also scored the opener in a 2-0 win against West Ham United in January – a win which meant the team had, for the first time in their history, beaten every team in the top flight in a season.

Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane
Mane picked up where he left off after the coronavirus break, scoring against Crystal Palace in a 4-0 win

Such was the impact Salah had in his first season at Anfield, it was easy to overlook the contribution that his Senegalese strike partner had had.

But in the two subsequent seasons, Mane has proved himself just as important as the iconic Egyptian.

It was Mane who got the third in that Manchester City victory – at that point, the 16th he had scored at Anfield in 2019 – five minutes in the the second half, seeing the ball fumbled by Claudio Bravo and gleefully wheeling away.

But it was a couple of games before that, against Aston Villa on 2 November, that Mane played perhaps his most pivotal role.

At 1-0 down with five minutes to go and facing the first defeat of the season, Mane crossed for Andy Robertson to head in and get an equaliser.

The momentum was with Liverpool and Mane now, and as heartbroken Villa tried to see the game out and get at least a point, Mane got his head on a 94th-minute cross – and Liverpool’s winning run continued.

Naby Keita

Naby Keita
Keita provided critical back-up at a crunch time for Liverpool

The Guinean midfielder only scored once for Liverpool in the league, in a routine 3-0 win over Bournemouth, and mostly had a role as a squad player in 2019/20.

But he did make a decisive contribution to their overall success this season – which in its own way enabled their Premier League triumph.

In December, Liverpool went to play in the Club World Cup in Qatar – splitting their squad in two so that they could also play in a domestic cup game.

Jurgen Klopp was keen to utilise his squad and spare the first team players as much as possible, whilst still targeting the Club World Cup trophy. So Keita came into the side – and played a pivotal role.

He scored against Monterrey in the semi-final and then played 100 minutes in the heat of the final against Flamengo, eventually being substituted in extra time.

Joel Matip

Joel Matip
Matip started the season in the first team, though dropped out as Gomez got better

The Cameroon defender has been another squad player for Liverpool – who have sought as much as possible to stick to the centre-back pairing of Virgil van Dyke and the flourishing young talent of Joe Gomez.

With further competition from Dejan Lovren, Matip has found his chances limited – but still played nine times for the Reds overall, and got the opening goal in an early-season 3-1 win over Arsenal that exposed the gulf in quality between the two sides.

Divock Origi

Origi scores against Everton
Origi seems to have a particular love of playing against Everton

Of course Origi actually plays for Belgium – but his father Mike was a Kenya international so he makes the list anyway.

Just before the season began, Origi signed a new long-term contract with Liverpool. Featuring mostly as a substitute, he still popped up with a couple of critical goals – including two against Everton in the first Merseyside derby as Liverpool romped to a 5-2 win.