Coach Javier Aguirre claims Mohamed Salah is a certainty to win the Ballon d’Or if Egypt triumph at the Africa Cup of Nations.
The 27-year-old capped a remarkable first two years with Liverpool by lifting the Champions League last month and Aguirre believes victory for the host nation will secure the forward’s place among the world’s greats.
“I see him so far struggling and struggling hard to win the Ballon d’Or. Why not? He is a Champions League winner with Liverpool,” he told Cadena Sur.
“If he can lead Egypt to the African Cup of Nations, no one can keep the Ballon d’Or away from him.”
Salah missed training on Thursday with a cold but is expected to play in the hosts’ last-16 tie against South Africa.
The Liverpool player has two goals from the group stages and Aguirre rejected suggestions his side have not scored enough goals after winning 1-0, 2-0 and 2-0.
“We have scored goals in 10 of the 11 matches since I have been in charge,” he told a press conference.
“It’s very difficult to win each match 5-0, very difficult.”
The Mexican believes the pressure being put on the hosts to win the tournament for an eighth time is huge.
“All the players have the same idea when they play against Egypt – that they have nothing to lose,” he added.
“That’s the way they play against us – we are playing at home, we are the favourites, we have Salah, and they have nothing to lose.
“It’s very important that we know how to handle this situation.”
South Africa lost two of their three group matches but still progressed as one of the best third-placed sides.
Coach Stuart Baxter accepts his team are up against it in the knockout stage.
“My players know they can do a little bit better and they know they can be more efficient,” he told a press conference.
“In the final third they know they can improvise a little bit more and I think they are looking forward to that challenge.
“Against the home nation, that may all fall to the ground if they overwhelm us, but I don’t think that is going to happen.”