The Newcastle boss is preparing for a reunion with his former club and acknowledges the Reds’ class of 2018-19 boasts greater depth than his squad
Rafa Benitez considers Mohamed Salah to be “among the best” and admits Liverpool are a different animal to the Reds side he bossed for six years.
The Spaniard was charge during a memorable spell at Anfield between 2004 and 2010, with Champions League success savoured along the way.
He also carried the Reds close to Premier League title glory, but the long wait for top-flight glory on Merseyside continues.
Jurgen Klopp is, however, hoping to carry his side to the crown this term, having assembled a star-studded squad.
The leader of that pack at present is Salah, who plundered 44 goals while collecting an enviable haul of personal awards in 2017-18.
He has been impressing again in the current campaign, netting 14 times, and Benitez is fully aware of the threat the Egyptian will pose to his Newcastle side on Boxing Day.
“Salah is showing everyone he is among the best,” said Benitez.
“He has the pace, the vision, the ability, he is clinical in front of goal.
“But it is not just him, they have a very good team and a very good squad, you can change players and still have a very good 11.
“The team is helping Salah to perform every week. Football is about consistency and quality and, at the moment, he has everything.”
Salah is complemented in an attacking sense by the likes of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Liverpool now boast options throughout their squad, though, with Benitez conceding that Klopp finds himself in a more favourable opposition when it comes to recruitment than the one he faced.
“When I was there we had to sell to buy,” he said ahead of a return to Anfield.
“Now, I think they have a better squad because when you spend money you bring in better players.
“So when they sign Fabinho and Naby Keita, yet they keep Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum, the squad is better and that means competition and you always have a strong team on the pitch.”
Another of those to have raised the collective quality of the Liverpool ranks is Virgil van Dijk, with fellow centre-half Jamaal Lascelles considering the Dutchman to be among the world’s best in his chosen position.
The Newcastle defender said: “People thought £75m was a high price tag but he has shown he is worth every penny.
“Pretty much every centre-half will look at him and think he has got it all. He is good on the ball, strong, tall, he is leader. Whoever plays next to him he will make them look good too.
“He is one of the best in the world. I hate talking about other players, but he is.”