Luis Diaz – once underpowered, now having Europe’s best defenders on toast…

Johnny Nic gushed over the new boy from Liverpool who has gone from humble beginnings to tearing top defenses to shreds in a Reds attack he could feature in for a decade…

Who is it then?
Luis Fernando Díaz Marulanda is a 25-year-old 5ft 10in winger, currently with Liverpool FC. Born in Barrancas, Colombia, he is a Wayúu, which Wikipedia defines as “an Amerindian ethnic group from the Guajira Peninsula in the northernmost part of Colombia and northwestern Venezuela”.

He was included in the 2015 Copa Americana de Pueblos Indígenas due to his Wayúu heritage and impressed a lot, at just 18 years old. Atletico Junior signed him up and sent him to Barranquilla, their feeder or ‘farm’ club. At the time, he was malnourished and underweight, poor boy, as many Wayuu apparently are. He was given a specific diet to help him gain a stone and a half of weight. There’s a 2,000 calorie parmo they sell in Middlesbrough that can help with that.

Making his senior debut in April 2016, he quickly broke into the Junior first team in 2017, spending two and a half seasons playing 108 games, scoring 20 goals. His form as a quick player who could score goals and assist, caught him the attention of Porto who showed up in Colombia with seven million euros in a big hat and brought Luis back to Portugal with them.

Zenit were also interested in signing him, but with a choice between Russia and Portugal, no one in their right mind would choose Russia, would they? It was a successful move from the 2019-20 Primeira Liga and Taça de Portugal. An incredibly fit player who hasn’t suffered a major injury in two and a half seasons at Porto, he has made 125 appearances and scored 41 times. He has scored 26 times in the league and made 15 assists.

In 2021, he also shared the Copa América Golden Boot with Lionel Messi as his international career really took off.

So here’s a tireless, fast left-wing player who is injury-free, is just 25, is a growing influence for his country who can score and score goals prolifically. So who came knocking at the door? Well, it was almost Spurs. In reality, it was so close to Spurs that I wrote the first draft of this for this column back in January when it looked like he was going to throw himself into the cold arms of Daniel Levy. However, aware of this, Liverpool immediately dropped £37.5m in used tenners on Porto, possibly from a helicopter, promised to pay another £12.5m in surcharges, winked Luis up a rope ladder and took him to Anfield, stuffing £56,000 a week wages into his pockets as they did it.

He was the perfect player for Jurgen Klopp’s formation, he fitted in immediately and now it looks like he’s been playing for the Reds for years despite it being less than three months.

Why love?
Well, he’s damn awesome, isn’t he? An exciting footballer. I love how direct he is. Looking back at his Porto footage, he often takes the ball up front in the middle third and heads straight for goal, past defenders to score or feed a team-mate to do so.

He’s one of those players you gladly give your money to see. The fact that he took that big step into the Premier League at the age of 25 probably means he’s mature enough to handle the sudden improvement in finances that comes with it and the pressure of playing for such a team. prestigious. And you can be sure that they will soon increase his income to keep him at the club now that he has already proven to be such an asset.

His recruitment is the perfect illustration of how to successfully buy players; Manchester United, take note. It’s not complicated. You buy a drive that integrates into your system. That’s it. It is not more difficult than that. You must have a system, of course.

Diaz looks like a cookie-cutter version of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane with skills similar to both. He knows how to play in a line almost by instinct and is totally on the same wavelength as his teammates. Watch them operate as the ball is returned to their own penalty area. As soon as the ball is within a Liverpool foot, they go at pace, the full-backs advancing with them. There was a moment in the United game when, as Andy Robertson picked up the ball around the halfway line and started running in pace with the front three burning the grass in front of him, you must have felt sorry for the overwhelmed, brutalized united defense

There was no adjustment to a new system for Luis, no adjustment period necessary. He was parachuted in and as soon as he stepped onto the pitch, even if you hadn’t seen him play for Porto, it was obvious why they bought him.

Eighteen games, six goals and two assists later, he is already a Kop hero. Football is a simple game that is talked about as if it were a complex science, but Diaz is a direct and straightforward player and shows how direct football should be played. Get the ball, head for the goal as fast as you can, score if you can, give it to someone else if you can’t.

He is one of those players who seems to operate at a different level of fitness. A tireless runner with a fairly bubbly pace will always appeal to you fans, not least because he doesn’t give the opposing defense a moment’s rest. This type of player also looks great when you’re in the ground because when you’re able to see the whole pitch, you can see how his runs work even without the ball. We see better how he stretches the game, how he occupies the defense and makes room for others.

His performance against Manchester United was stunning, even taking into account the low quality of the opposition. Looking at him, it was hard to believe he had been at the club for such a short time as he clearly understands what everyone is trying to do. I also think it is, albeit quietly, quite tough. Look at him, he looks lean and mean and he’s not lean and light either. He can hold his own as 16 yellows and three reds in his career to date probably show too.

He won the league and the cup in Colombia, did a league and cup double with Porto and could easily do the same with Liverpool. What a time to be Luis Diaz.

three big moments
As one of the top three, it works perfectly…

And you can see how Liverpool understood he would be great for them by watching this…

Scoring for Colombia in an already familiar style…

Future days
If Liverpool lose Mo Salah, they already have the perfect replacement in the squad. It just proves that you don’t need to sign Europe’s most famous, expensive and hottest players. You just need to sign a really good player who will work on how you set up the squad. That it’s not obvious for all the big clubs is a bit odd. That some clubs repeatedly make basic mistakes, wasting money on perfectly good players who just don’t fit their team is a dereliction of duty and bad business sense. While Klopp has signed players who haven’t always excelled in their position, at least they have been bought into it.

Luis Diaz could be at the club for 10 years. He looks like the kind of player who will stay in shape well into his thirties. It seems likely he will be there after Klopp leaves – currently his contract expires in 2024 – but the model for how a successful team can play has been set.

He is less than three months into a five-year contract and he already feels indispensable at Liverpool. With next season fractured, interrupted by the World Cup, it could prove important for the Reds that Salah and Diaz do indeed have a month off mid-season.

As one of the best signings of recent times, Luis looks set to delight us for many years to come.

Mary I. Bruner