Mohamed Salah can match Ronaldo, Messi after 'many years' at top - Wijnaldum
Georginio Wijnaldum has told ESPN FC that Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has been a match for Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi this season, but admitted that the Egypt forward must now maintain his level for "many more years" to earn equal billing with football's biggest stars.
Salah has scored 44 goals in all competitions for Liverpool this season, with his 10 Champions League strikes helping drive Jurgen Klopp's team into Saturday's final against Real Madrid in Kiev.
Real forward Ronaldo, despite indifferent form at times this season, goes into the final as the competition's top scorer with 15 goals, aiming to win the European Cup for a fifth time.
And although he insists that Salah has what it takes to be Liverpool's match-winner in the Ukrainian capital, Wijnaldum concedes that his Anfield teammate has it all to do to eclipse Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi from the summit of the game.
"Mo has been incredible this season," Wijnaldum told ESPN FC. "The way he has scored goals has been unbelievable, not only for him, but also for us and the supporters -- everybody who witnessed it.
"What he did this season in the Premier League was unbelievable and I really hope he can do it in the final, and take his form from the Premier League and what he has done in the Champions League into the final, because it will help us and give us a bigger chance to win it."
When asked if Salah can be ranked alongside Ronaldo and Messi, Wijnaldum added: "It's difficult to say. Messi and Ronaldo do it for years, but this season, he can definitely compete with them.
"But if you want to speak about the level of Messi and Ronaldo, a player has to do it for many more years.
"I don't know how many years they have been doing it, how many years they have been first and second in the Ballon d'Or, it is unbelievable.
"[Antoine] Griezmann is another player you can say is there with Ronaldo and Messi, but it is difficult to say.
"What I do know is that a player has to do it for many more years to compete with those two because what they are doing is unbelievable.
"I don't think you will ever see players who are so consistent, playing the way they are doing -- scoring goals, being important for their club, winning trophies and individual trophies."
The ankle injury sustained by Ronaldo while scoring against Barcelona recently has cast a cloud over the Portuguese forward's fitness going into Saturday's final.
Both Ronaldo and Real coach Zinedine Zidane have insisted that he is fully fit, but even if he is below par at the weekend, Wijnaldum claims that the former Manchester United player can still end Liverpool's hopes in an instant.
"He [Ronaldo] is really good and he showed it, even in the times when people said he wasn't in good form," Wijnaldum said. "He still scored goals and helped Real win games.
"He will always be a threat, for every team he plays against, because he has already showed everything and that will also give Real confidence because, even if he is not in form, he can be dangerous.
"If I look at Real Madrid as a team, I see a lot of good players. That is why we have to be aware of everyone.
"They have so many good players, so much quality, almost all of them are world-class players. It is not only Ronaldo.
"Even if you take Ronaldo out, you have to manage to defend against the other players because they have a lot of quality where they can create chances or score goals.
"You have [Toni] Kroos, Marcelo, [Sergio] Ramos at set pieces. A lot of them can make the difference.
"It is not only our front three, midfield or the defenders -- I think we have to do it as a team and I think we have to play the perfect game to win it."
Despite Real's pedigree of three Champions Leagues in the past four seasons, Wijnaldum insists that Liverpool are good enough to win their sixth European Cup this weekend.
"We are playing against a team with a lot of confidence," Wijnaldum said. "They have already won it two years in a row, so they know how to manage a final and have experience of a final.
"It will be difficult and it will be a big challenge, but we always have confidence.
"The way we came to the final - the results we had, the way we were playing -- we also have confidence.
"If we play the way that we normally play, we have a big chance to win it."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_