Former FC Basel president Bernhard Heusler has heaped praise on Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah, comparing the Egyptian forward's humble and respectful character to that of affable tennis icon Roger Federer.
It was with the reigning Swiss champions that Salah established his reputation in European football following a move from Al Mokawloon in 2012, scoring 20 times and providing 17 assists in 79 appearances across all competitions before leaving for an ill-fated stint at Chelsea.
The 25-year-old successfully rebuilt his career in Italy's Serie A with Fiorentina and AS Roma after a disappointing spell at Stamford Bridge and did not hesitate to return to the Premier League last summer when long-term suitors Liverpool agreed a £34m ($47.1m) deal [BBC Sport].
Any remaining English-based doubters of Salah's talent have swiftly been silenced by a sustained series of electric performances as part of a ruthless front three under Jurgen Klopp that have produced 29 goals in just 35 outings and will surely have him in firm contention for the PFA Player of the Year award.
During an interview with Sky Sports that also includes memories from former Basel and Liverpool defender Philipp Degen, Heusler spoke very fondly of Salah's time at St. Jakob-Park and compared his humble nature with that of one of Basel's favourite sons and most famous fans - 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer.
"There are a few sportsmen like this," he said. "Roger Federer is another. They never forget where they are from. They are humble and respect the people who were involved in their pathway even when they have gone on to bigger things. Maybe it is no coincidence that it is the most successful people who are like that. I am so impressed with him."
While Salah, who laid on an early goal for Roberto Firmino before scoring himself during a 2-0 win at Southampton over the weekend, flew with his Liverpool teammates to Portugal earlier today (13 February) as the club prepare to contest the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Portuguese leaders FC Porto tomorrow, Basel are in action against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City later this evening.
Federer, meanwhile, beat Marin Cilic to claim a record-equalling sixth Australian Open title in Melbourne last month and heads to the Netherlands this week knowing that he only has to reach the semi-finals of the Rotterdam Open to reclaim the mantle of world number one for the first time since 2012.
Current incumbent and long-time rival Rafael Nadal is not expected to return from a right hip muscle tear suffered in the fifth set of his quarter-final meeting with Cilic in Australia until the Mexican Open in Acapulco, which begins on 26 February.
Belgian qualifier and world number 116 Ruben Bemelmans, who has never previously played against Federer, is first up for the Swiss at the Ahoy Rotterdam on Wednesday. Philipp Kohlschreiber will meet the winner of that match after his 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 7-6 comeback win over Karen Khachanov on Tuesday.