Crash, bang…silence. You knew from the reaction 26 minutes into one of the most dramatic Champions League finals, that the course of history had changed.
There was Mohamed Salah, scurrying forward as he does, looking to wreak havoc. Alongside him Sergio Ramos was trying to keep pace, arms locked. The ball bobbled then, suddenly, Liverpool’s No 11 was lying on the floor.
Salah was booked for diving against Chelsea three weeks ago, but, as a rule, he doesn’t go down. He takes the knock and bounces back up. So as team-mates gathered around and Liverpool’s medical staff dashed to his side, the previously buoyant arena became hushed.
Sergio Ramos locked arms with Mohamed Salah as he brought him down causing the injury
Then, on the big screen, they showed a replay of the tangle from a new angle. Suddenly there were suggestions that Ramos had intended to wrestle Salah out of the game. Had he really ‘done a job’ on Real’s most dangerous opponent?
Not only did Ramos ensure Salah did not escape his clutches, but he landed on top of him on the way down.
Defenders call it ‘leaving something’ on an opponent. It’s about letting them know that you are around and that they are not in for an easy ride.
When it became clear Salah had to leave the field with tears streaming down his cheeks, Ramos was caught on camera grinning in the background.
Ramos uses every trick in the book, you’d love him on your side but can’t bear to play against
Echoes of Cristiano Ronaldo’s wink after Wayne Rooney’s red card at the 2006 World Cup. Maybe he was having a laugh with the assistant referee about something totally unconnected. Or maybe not.
Flash and brash, Ramos is the kind of character you would love to have on your side but can’t bear when he lines up against you because he knows every trick in the book. He is the modern day Claudio Gentile.
After the game he celebrated with his wife and two boys and carted the trophy around like he owned it. This was his night, the captain of Real winning the trophy for a third successive season.
From theatrical dives, when trying to get Sadio Mane into trouble, to sly elbows, one of which connected with Loris Karius early in the second half, Ramos was a 90-minute irritant and he drove Liverpool to distraction.
‘The mindset is totally different when you have Mo on the pitch,’ said Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren.
‘It was difficult to accept that we, again, had such an unlucky moment with so many injuries. I cannot believe we had so many injuries this season. It was a big point, a big change.’
Liverpool players revealed that Salah’s injury unbalanced them as they continued without him
Gini Wijnaldum backed up that explanation, saying: ‘It seemed like a big blow for us the way we reacted after his injury. When he was on the pitch we did it well for 25 minutes.
‘The boss said that it looked like we were devastated but we had to let it go and change as the injury could not change.’
Klopp said: ‘The shock of the boys was obvious. We dropped a little bit too deep. Real tried to use that positive momentum until we settled a little bit. At half-time we could change a few things and defend half-spaces better like we had done before.’
But they didn’t have Salah. When they wanted inspiration, the Egyptian with the magic wand was back in the dressing room, his shoulder in a sling and his heart broken. He had dreamt of crowning a glorious first season at Anfield with one more goal but it was not to be.
On Sunday he indicated that he would be fit for Russia 2018, tweeting: ‘It was a very tough night, but I am a fighter. Despite the odds, I am confident that I’ll be in Russia to make you all proud. Your love and support will give me the strength I need.’
Salah had scans on Sunday and tweeted to say he was confident of making the World Cup
He returned to Merseyside early Sunday morning and immediately had scans. The hope is that the injury is not so bad — the lay-off being potentially between 10 days and three weeks.
A tweet from the Egyptian Federation said: ‘The team doctor Dr Mohammed Abu Alaa has been told by Liverpool’s medical team following an X-ray that Salah has a sprained shoulder joint and had his shoulders wrapped. The Dr is optimistic of Salah’s chances of joining the national team.’
From Ramos on a Saturday night, a message on social media. ‘Sometimes football shows you its good side and other times the bad. Above all, we are fellow pros. #GetWellSoon @MoSalah’
But how about this for one final twist? Should Egypt win Group A and Spain finish second in Group B, or vice versa, they will square up in the last 16. For intrigue and drama, Ramos against Salah, part two, would be one of the most delicious rivalries of the tournament.