Luis Diaz took to Wembley for the League Cup final on Sunday against the reigning European champions like he was having a kick about with his mate on the streets of Barrancas, his hometown in Colombia.
Seemingly immune to the pressures of a 90,000-seater cauldron, Diaz rose to the occasion at England’s hallowed national stadium and produced a performance of dribbling virtuosity that not only left Koppites purring on the day — but gave them hope for the future.
With questions marks continuously swirling around what the future may hold for Jurgen Klopp’s frontline, in a post-Mohamed Salah/Sadio Mane world, 25-year-old Diaz has alleviated some of those immediate concerns with his lightning start on Merseyside.
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Already impressing in his (so far) ephemeral career at Anfield since trading the blue of Porto for the red of Liverpool in January, Diaz appears to have all the attributes to chime with the demands of Klopp’s high-pressing football, and the dribbling braggadocio to appease a fanbase accustomed to skill and flair.
When he signed for Liverpool, The Athletic reported that Colombian national newspaper El Espectador ran with the headline “El quinto Beatle”, translated in English to ‘The fifth Beatle’, and well, he certainly looked well and truly in tune with Klopp’s recently-subdued but still evident rock ‘n’ roll football at Wembley.
“It looks like they’ve found another one,” Gary Neville remarked after Liverpool started to take control of the final around the 20-minute mark, following a blistering start from Chelsea.
Indeed, Diaz linked harmoniously with Salah and Mane to remedy the absence of Roberto Firmino, who is currently nursing a muscle injury, combining style and substance to produce moments of ‘highlight reel’ gold dust, while also creating opportunities for himself and his team-mates in the capital.
Luis Díaz’s game by numbers vs. Chelsea:
6 duels won
3 fouls won
2 shots on target
— Squawka (@Squawka) February 27, 2022
Diaz left the field in extra-time as Klopp sought to freshen things up, but the Colombian finished the match as one of only two players, alongside Christian Pulisic, to have multiple shots on target (two), while he also made two succesful tackles, the most of any Liverpool starter — proving his worth as more than a trickster alone.
Later in the game, after Diaz breezed past Reece James, Neville added: “He is some player, him.” And the praise filtered through to social media, as well (naturally), with Gary Lineker hailing him “a real talent”.
Liverpool ultimately ran out victors on the day, winning 11-10 on penalties after both sides failed to be separated after regulation and extra time. And although Diaz was off the pitch, unable to influence the 12-yard sudden death, his impact was palpable in the overall outcome of this historic League Cup triumph for his new club.
Salah, Mane and Firmino have defined an era on Merseyside, but Diaz could be the man the usher in a new dawn at the club.