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Liverpool

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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