Liverpool needed to replace the goals that Sadio Mané provided for Jürgen Klopp as part of the next phase of their evolution. One transfer deal has done just that.
Replacing a player like Sadio Mané was never going to be easy, but Liverpool are reaping the rewards from finding a star early who was in line to take the baton from the Senegal international at some point. Jürgen Klopp couldn’t have been 100 per cent sure of whether that would have been this summer after Bayern Munich came calling — but the Reds already look to be in good hands.luis díaz
Luis Díaz has been a revelation since joining the club, and it looks as though a half-season during the 2021/22 campaign was all he needed to settle in to Klopp’s side. Four goals in 13 Premier League matches last season provided a foundation for the Colombian winger to build on, and he has done just that this season, having already scored three from four matches.
Díaz has, arguably, been Liverpool’s best performer from the opening games. It was his wondergoal against Crystal Palace that rescued a draw after Darwin Núñez was dismissed, and the 25-year-old had the opening say as the Reds scored the first of nine against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon. At his current rate, the former FC Porto star could soon establish himself as the best left-winger in the league — a title Sadio Mané had often made a case for.
It’s a testament to Liverpool’s recruitment team that they were able to find yet another player who has been able and make an instant impact, but also to Díáz, who has embraced life on Merseyside. He is dispelling myths of whether statistics can translate between leagues, with many somewhat dismissive of his 14 goals in 18 games in Portugal’s top flight.
And it’s clear why Klopp was keen to make a move for him. Away from the promising goal return and technical quality, Díaz’s work rate has set him apart from the typical skilful South American winger. He adds the flair without the low defensive contribution — a factor that Neymar, among others, has been criticised for in the past, but something that Liverpool always look for — and exemplified by Mohamed Salah.
Díaz is Liverpool’s top scorer in the Premier League after the opening four matches, but his transformation from a tricky winger who forced Real Madrid to double up on him in the Champions League final to a proven goalscorer at the highest level is most impressive.
For many players, finding the lethal touch inside the box is the final ingredient required to evolve. While he may not necessarily find himself matching the 22 league goals that Salah and Mané scored in the 2018/19 season, it’s clear that progress has been made in that area of his game.
Of course, Mané is a loss to the side — but it could have been much worse had Liverpool been hesitant in the transfer market. There is no need to panic buy when there is a ready-made replacement, and it also emphasises the significance of developing players in favour spending — an element of Klopp’s management style that is unrivalled.
As Liverpool prepare to welcome back Diogo Jota after his injury, it seems unlikely that Díaz will be edged away from starting minutes without being rested. But with Liverpool able to rotate between him and the Portugal international, it is difficult to find a better example of strength-in-depth — highlighting how the left-flank has been secured for the remainder of Klopp’s tenure with a £37m masterstroke.
The silky South American could teach Neymar and others plenty — and that’s exactly why Liverpool beat Tottenham and others to his signing.