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Liverpool have found next Sadio Mané as Jürgen Klopp star is ‘Neymar with work rate’

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.

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Liverpool

NBA coach Steve Kerr on his Cairo homecoming and his love for Mohamed Salah

CAIRO, Egypt — Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has made a long-awaited return to Cairo, where he spent three years in his teens, to coach campers at the NBA and FIBA’s Africa Basketball without Borders programme.

Kerr, who was born in Beirut, Lebanon, spent time in Egypt as a child because of his father’s academic career in Middle Eastern studies, and had not been back to Cairo since 1985 until this past weekend.

Kerr made it a family affair, he told us at a media event on Sunday. “I wanted to come to Cairo [for BWB], I haven’t been back here since 1985,” he said.

“I brought my family — I brought my wife, my daughter, her husband — it’s great to be visiting Egypt again, and doing so while coaching and being a part of BWB made it a perfect trip.”

Kerr, 56, attended Cairo American College (CAC) for three years in his teens while his late father was a visiting professor at the American University of Cairo. His father, Malcolm Hooper Kerr, was killed in a terror attack in Beirut in 1984.

Although Kerr’s main connection to the Middle East is gone, he has not forgotten his roots and even took time to visit his old school.

He said: “I had a chance to visit the [CAC] campus a couple of days ago and go talk to the school teams, boys’ and girls’ teams, visit some of the coaches and the teachers, so it was a great experience.”

Kerr is also famously a soccer fan and supports Liverpool, a connection that also relates to his time in Egypt: Pharaohs star Mohamed Salah.

But while Kerr loves Salah’s work on the field, he’s also a big fan of his humanitarian work off it: “I started following the Premier League maybe five or six years ago and I had seen Mohamed Salah play and read about him.

“I was just so impressed by his character and what he had done in his hometown, helping to build a school.

“I knew how beloved he was in Egypt, so I said: ‘That’s my guy!’ I wanted to cheer for Mohamed Salah and when I found out he played for Liverpool, I said: ‘OK, that’s my team!’ So, I’ve been a Liverpool fan ever since.”

Kerr, who won five NBA championships as a player (three with the Chicago Bulls and two with the San Antonio Spurs), is used to being admired, but even he was starstruck when he met Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp.

“I’ve gotten to meet some of the coaches. I met with Jürgen Klopp the other day in Liverpool, which was a great thrill. Watching the game, it’s very similar in terms of concepts,” he said.

“Even though there’s 11 players in soccer and only five in basketball, it’s still very much a game about three people — whoever has the ball and whoever is closest to that player — and being able to pass and move in small triangles across the court or the pitch; trying to beat your man and beat the defender with cutting and spacing, it’s all very similar.

“I’m still trying to learn more about soccer — I’m not an expert — but I enjoy watching it, and I feel like I’m always learning something.”

Despite downplaying his knowledge of the sport, Kerr did not hesitate when asked who he expected to win the UEFA Champions League this season.

“Liverpool,” he said with a smile.

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Liverpool

Liverpool 9-0 Bournemouth: Record-equalling Reds ‘could have scored 14’

Harsh words were directed Liverpool‘s way after the defeat at Manchester United on Monday.

Former vice-captain Jamie Carragher called it “embarrassing” as they started the Premier League season in sluggish manner with two draws and the loss at Old Trafford.

It came just a couple of months on from last season’s exploits, when they came agonisingly close to football immortality, winning the Carabao Cup and FA Cup but then finishing runners-up in the Premier League by a point and losing the Champions League final against Real Madrid.

Manager Jurgen Klopp has set high standards during his time at Anfield and his side failed to meet them so far this term, but promoted Bournemouth’s arrival on Merseyside gave the Reds a chance to remind their rivals of their credentials.

Liverpool’s performance did that and more. The Reds produced a display of relentless, attacking football that resulted in a 9-0 victory that equalled the biggest victory in Premier League history… and left fans chanting for 10.

When asked how the result ranked personally, Klopp pointed to the performance of his team.

“Nine-nil is a strange result, it will not happen often,” said the German.

“It just feels a very important result. It is not that we worked less in the last eight weeks, we were all in a really good mood, liked what we saw most of the time – but you don’t get it in the stadium.

“You have to turn a few other screws, and that is our job. When it turns out like today it is fantastic.”

‘A perfect football afternoon for us’

There was optimism around Liverpool when, inspired by new signing Darwin Nunez, they defeated champions Manchester City in the Community Shield, but the Reds lacked their usual spark in draws against Fulham and Crystal Palace.

They were outrun by Erik ten Hag’s United at the start of the week and there were suggestions Klopp’s side might be suffering a hangover from last season’s ultimate disappointments.

The loss at Old Trafford was their first in the league of 2022 and they responded on Saturday by taking apart newly promoted Bournemouth with a ruthless showing in front of their own supporters.

Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott set them on the way with goals in the opening five minutes and Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s thunderbolt, Roberto Firmino‘s close-range finish and Virgil van Dijk‘s header made it 5-0 at the break.

The hosts scored four more times in the second half courtesy of Chris Mepham’s own goal, Fabio Carvalho’s first for the club then Diaz and Firmino both adding to their tallies.

“We had to prove a point for us,” said Klopp. “I loved the start so much, we didn’t hold anything back – putting them under pressure. We got early goals and kept going with the same purpose.

“It was important we kept going. If you let them score one you have a bitter taste in a wonderful afternoon. At 6-0 we could bring on the kids – it was a perfect football afternoon for us.

“We all know we needed something like that. We had bigger chances in other games and did not use them.”

England defender Alexander-Arnold said: “We had a point to prove after three disappointing games but the main thing was to come out and win and we did it in fantastic fashion.”

Teenager Elliott, who scored his first Premier League goal with a sublime curling effort, said: “It is a massive relief for us and our fans to put in a performance and show people who doubted us. We’re buzzing.”

‘It could have been 12, 13, 14’

Before the game, a 9-0 result had only been achieved three times in the Premier League era – twice by Manchester United against Ipswich and Southampton, as well as Leicester thrashing the Saints.

Brazil forward Firmino reminded people of his ability as he ended a barren run of 20 games without scoring in the league for Liverpool.

With two goals and three assists, the 30-year-old had a hand in five goals, becoming just the third Reds player after Mohamed Salah and Luis Suarez to achieve the feat in the same game.

“Firmino has not got the best stats in terms of goalscoring, but players love playing alongside him because he is such a great team player,” ex-Chelsea winger Pat Nevin said on BBC Radio 5 Live. “People thought he was on the way out with Darwin Nunez coming in, but what a great answer.

“You sometimes take the brilliance for granted, it was sheer torture for Bournemouth. Carvalho would walk into any position in the forward line and look at home. He is that good.

“Nine goals and it could have been 12, 13 14, that is not an exaggeration. Everything went perfectly and Bournemouth will hope they never have another day like this.”

Toughest and painful day – Parker

Bournemouth enjoyed a victory against Aston Villa on the opening weekend of the campaign but were torn apart by Liverpool.

After four games, the Cherries have conceded the most goals (16) in the top-flight so far, while the result was the joint-heaviest defeat in their entire league history.

In their previous two games, Bournemouth were beaten 4-0 by champions Manchester City and 3-0 at home against Arsenal.

Their downcast manager Scott Parker said afterwards: “This is the toughest and most painful day I have experienced for sure. The touchline today was painful and I could sense it was for the players too. They need some help and in some moments the levels were too great.

“It was a really humbling experience, shell-shocking. The levels we are playing against and the quality they have is far greater than what we have at our disposal at this moment in time. I feel sorry for the fans and for the players.

“Tonight will be a long, sleepless night reflecting and a difficult one to process. We are learning really harsh lessons which at times are unfair.

“We don’t just talk about Liverpool or the two previous fixtures, this division is ruthless. It can leave some scars, the experiences they are facing. Painful, absolutely painful and Liverpool were ruthless.”

Asked if this will be the lowest point in their season, manager Parker said: “At this moment in time, where we currently are, I can see some more to be honest with you.”

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Liverpool

Mohamed Salah makes generous donation to Egyptian church after fire kills 41 people

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah has reportedly donated a large amount of his own money to help rebuild a church destroyed by a deadly fire in his native Egypt.

At least 41 people died in Giza, which is across the Nile from the capital Cairo, after a fire broke out on the weekend. The tragedy struck as an estimated 1,000 Coptic Christian worshippers gathered for Mass at the Abu Sifin church on Sunday. The fire, which officials believed was started by an electrical fault in an air conditioning unit, blocked an exit and caused a stampede. CNN reported that at least 18 children were among the dead.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered his “sincere condolences to the families of the innocent victims that have passed on to be with their Lord in one of his houses of worship”. He ordered the armed forces to rebuild the church – a process that will now be aided by Salah.

According to Egyptian outlet OnTime Sports, Salah has donated three million Egyptian dollars, which equates to around £129,706, to the cause. The Liverpool forward, who was born in Nagrig, in the north of Egypt, is no stranger to helping out charitable causes, both in England and his home country.

The Sunday Times ’ 2022 charitable list rates him as the eighth most generous person in the UK. The newspaper estimates that he has recently given away some £2.5million – equivalent to six per cent of his estimated £41m wealth.

One of his most notable donations came in 2019, when he gave away £2.4m to the National Cancer Institute in Cairo after it was severely damaged by a car bomb. Salah has also helped build a hospital, school, youth centre and ambulance unit in Nagrig, as well as providing five acres of land for a waste treatment plant, allowing residents to have a safe source of clean water.

Salah is estimated to have donated more than £400,000 to help his hometown. Maher Shetia, the mayor of Nagrig, paid tribute to Salah’s generosity back in 2017. “Salah highlighted his small village on the international map,” said Shetia. “He also built a charity and will build a school that costs millions. This is in addition to his donations to Basioun hospital with a complete ventilation room, incubations and an ambulance unit.”

“Salah comes to the village when possible and walks among the people and takes photos with them so modestly,” said Salah’s cousin Abadah Saeed Ghali in 2017. “All Egyptians, not only those of Nagrig or Gharbiya province, are proud of him.”

The 30-year-old’s donations don’t stop there, either. He is also reported to have bought gym equipment, paid for couples to get married and presented youth football trophies in Nagrig.

Salah also donated £26,612 to the Association of Veteran Egyptian Players to help former footballers who have fallen on hard times after retiring from the game.

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