West Ham forward Michail Antonio insists he knows “for a fact” that Liverpool star Mohamed Salah was “ready to go” to Saudi Arabia over the summer.
The Reds reportedly turned down a bid of £150m for the Egypt international in the summer transfer window with Saudi Pro League side Al-Ittihad interested in taking Salah to the Middle East.
Liverpool stood firm with rumours that as much as £225m could be offered for the 31-year-old with Salah staying beyond the Saudi transfer deadline on September 7, to the relief of supporters.
There are already rumours that Al-Ittihad will try again to poach Salah away from Liverpool in the January transfer window with speculation set to be rife later in the year.
And fellow Premier League player Antonio insists he has been told that Salah “was ready to go” to Saudi Arabia in the summer.
The West Ham forward told the Footballer’s Football Podcast: “He didn’t turn that down, no way. He was locked up and the Reds had put that red arrow across: ‘You are not going anywhere’.
“He did not stop that at all. To be fair to him, he didn’t kick up a fuss and let them do what they were doing. But I know for a fact that he was ready to go.”
Antonio continued: “What else can he do at Liverpool? He’s done it. It’s a great opportunity for him, he is a Muslim man and it had everything screaming out for him.
“There was no actual negative for the man to not go. I understand he has a contract, which he has fulfilled.”
Former Liverpool midfielder Didi Hamann thinks Klopp could have to accept that Salah will leave in January if the Egyptian expresses a desire to leave.
“If Mo Salah wants to leave in January, then Klopp will have to think about it,” Hamann told NeueOnlineCasinos. “[Sir Alex] Ferguson took that approach because he knew he could reinvest that money. Klopp doesn’t have the same option – hence why he kept hold of Mane and Firmino for several years.
“As far as Salah goes, I don’t think they should lose him for free (his contract is up in 2025). If the Saudi option is still there in January, then he’ll have to think about it.”
Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka has been linked as a potential replacement if Salah leaves – but Hamann doubts any player could fill the void left by the Egyptian.
Hamann added: “We’ll have to see. Bukayo Saka has been mentioned, too. Just take a look at Salah’s numbers – he’s scored 20+ goals in all but one of his Premier League seasons and he’s never injured.
“His numbers are incredible and the comparisons to (Ian) Rush, (Robbie) Fowler, and (Michael) Owen are valid. Salah isn’t even a centre forward and he’s up there with the true Liverpool greats. He makes goals, too. He’s just brilliant. It’s impossible to replace him like-for-like.
“It depends if Saka wants to leave – he’s a London boy. Liverpool have never been known for breaking transfer fee records, either. We don’t know when or if Salah leaves yet, and by the time he does leave, somebody else could be on the radar. There are players at Brighton doing great things, for example. I think it’s a bit early to discuss Salah’s replacement.”