Salah produced a scintillating display as Liverpool fought for a 4-3 win over Leeds on the opening weekend of the Premier League, with the Egyptian proving the difference.
Though he scored a hat-trick, it was Salah’s all-round game that made him stand out, with his speed, strength and creativity on the right flank giving the Reds a world-class outlet that clinched the three points.
It was, arguably, the best the 28-year-old has been in months, and has led to renewed praise of the No. 11 as one of the finest talents in world football.
With Ronaldo turning 36 this season and Lionel Messi not far behind at 33, there will be a battle on to be considered the very best in the near future, and Neville believes Salah will be up there.
“He looks different,” he said in the Sky Sports studio.
“He’s had a haircut, he looks mean, he looks thin, he looks hungry, he’s strong, his game looked more mature.
“We’re only 90 minutes into a season, and it’s a team that, to be fair, let you play, and it might be a little bit early, but I just thought that I was looking at a player on Saturday that I think you could be thinking [is the best].
“Mbappe? He’s fantastic. Neymar? He’s up and down a little bit. Where is the best player in the world going to be in this next couple of years?
“He’s not far away from it anyway, but to me on Saturday, he looked like an absolutely different level in that game.”
There was a move in the game that Salah and Sadio Mane ultimately spurn a two-on-one chance as they exchanged passes only for the Senegalese to balloon his effort over the bar.
It was a welcome sight, in a way, following their overegged spat in the 3-0 win at Burnley last August, but Neville feels it was not indicative of their respective styles and mindsets.
Instead, Neville compared Salah and Mane to Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, with there being a “mentality difference” that sees Salah stand out as the ruthless “killer.”
“There was a point in the game, it was in the second half, where I was watching Salah and just thought ‘that is some player, that’,” he continued.
“I know we know he’s some player, but when you think about someone who is getting to a level whereby four years ago he first came to Liverpool and got those 40-odd goals, I thought ‘that’s a freak, he won’t be able to live with that’.
“Then he consistently produces over a period of two or three years.
“Then we have the debate last season between Mane and Salah, and you think of the mentality difference between Mane and Salah.
“Mane is likeable, I think players probably love him, he gives his all every single day, he’ll do the selfless thing for the team.
“Then you look at Salah over the other side, he doesn’t pass sometimes to his team-mate, you think he’s a little bit more selfish, a little bit less likeable because of that, probably by the fans, probably by his own team-mates.
“But then I look at him, as something of an outsider, thinking he is an absolute killer on the pitch.
“It reminds me of the twin-tracking of Ronaldo and Rooney sort of mid-2000s, when they were both like that, and that’s where Mane and Salah are.
“I think Salah will end up going above, not because Mane isn’t a great player, he is a great player as Rooney was a great player.
“But the reason that these players are different is they’ve got something up here [in their brains] which means they go home at night and being the best player in the world rocks their world.
“Whereas actually, a Rooney or a Mane, they feel like the team’s got to win, I’ve got to give my all, I’ll fight for my players. Salah doesn’t do that.”