When you think of legendary right wingers with a wand of a left foot, the most common answer you’ll get is probably Arjen Robben.
The flying Dutchman made a name for himself across some of Europe’s best clubs across his career, winning league titles in the Netherlands, England, Spain and Germany, as well as the Champions League after scoring the winner in the final.
But he’s got competition these days, with Mohamed Salah carving his own legacy as a goalscoring right winger with a wand of a left foot. So 90min asks the question, who’s better?
As a wide player who likes to get in on goal, speed is a huge part of your game. Robben was absolutely blistering once he got going and more importantly knew how to use it to his advantage. The same can be said for Salah, who has lit up the Premier League and European stage with his devastating bursts on the counter.
Robben with the ball was one of the fastest players of his generation, but a series of muscle injuries throughout his career meant he slowed down considerably before he got to his physical prime.
Salah, on the other hand, hasn’t suffered much and has left some of the quickest defenders in Europe in his dust. With and without the ball, the Egyptian is one of the fastest players in the world and gets the nod in this category.
When you think of Robben, goals aren’t necessarily the first thing that come to mind. But perhaps they should be, because the Dutchman’s scoring record – particularly in his decade-long spell in the Bundesliga – was exceptional.
Robben scored 144 goals in 309 games for Bayern Munich across ten seasons, even though he suffered with a multitude of injuries during his career. That didn’t stop him becoming an eight-time Bundesliga winner, netting 99 times in just 201 outings.
Salah has taken goalscoring ability to new heights since his arrival at Anfield, notching at the time of writing an incredible 115 goals in 182 games across all competitions. Not only did he break the single season goal record for the Premier League (32), he became the fastest player to reach 50 goals in the competition’s history and overtook Steven Gerrard as Liverpool’s highest goalscorer in European football.
However, despite all of that, Salah is known for missing chances and occasionally fluffing his lines. He’s shown he can be clinical, but he could have had at least another 10-15 to his name had he taken some of the opportunities afforded to him.
It’s controversial as Salah is the better goal getter, but Robben’s actual finishing ability was another level of good.
This one is probably one of the more cut and dry categories between the two, simply because of how each of them have evolved as their careers have progressed.
Robben was always one to hug the touchline, receive the ball and go on a run. He’d bob and weave, moving in and out of the line of the defender before eventually getting the ball onto his left foot and finding a shot or a pass out of nowhere.
Salah was very similar earlier in his career, but as his time at Liverpool has gone on he’s started dribbling with the ball less and instead focused on getting into the box to get on the end of chances. The transition has been very similar to that of Cristiano Ronaldo when he went up a level for Manchester United and Real Madrid, but it makes Robben a clear victor in this category.
Both men are predominantly known for their performances on the right wing of whatever team they’ve been apart of, but they’ve both played elsewhere too – particularly up front.
Robben’s greatest successes for his national team came as part of a front two for the Netherlands, particularly at the 2014 World Cup under Louis van Gaal, where he scored four times including twice in the famous 5-1 win over Spain. His link up play with Robin van Persie was excellent and he was able to run in behind, stretch defences and play a big part of his team’s run to the semi-finals.
Salah has also played up front, but for Liverpool more so than his national team. While he has the ability to run in behind too, what’s so impressive about the 29-year-old’s game as a striker is his ability to hold the ball up.
HIs play with his back to goal is sensational, with his upper body strength able to hold off some of the most physically imposing defenders around, while he also has the poachers instinct to sniff out chances in and around the box.
Robben’s injury problems were well documented, much like they have been during this comparison. The legendary Dutchman spent large portions of his career rehabbing, and that’s evidenced by the fact that he averaged only 20 Bundesliga appearances per season during his decade-long spell in Germany.
As for Salah, he’s a fitness machine and has rarely been sidelined unless a player has kicked lumps out of him and caused an impact injury. His fitness record at Liverpool has been near impeccable, and has allowed him to set the highest of standards in terms of goals, assists and all-around consistent performances.
In this particular category, there’s only one victor.
It’s a tough call and ultimately any decision will come down to your preference and style. Both players are world class talents and have set the bar super high for wide players around the world.
With Robben’s finishing, dribbling and high level of performance all coming despite a high volume of injuries, it’s easy to understand why many feel the Dutchman to be superior – particularly as he starred in no less than four countries.
But Salah’s equally as talented, arguably has a higher ceiling than what the former Real Madrid and Chelsea star did, and has proven to not only be a role model for a club and country, but also for an entire continent.
That standing in the game, and the fact that he’ll go down as one of the most influential players in history, just edges Salah over the line. Just.