It’s fair to say that Liverpool’s imminent signing of Luis Diaz has caught everyone by surprise – not just Tottenham.
The Reds’ interest in the Porto winger had been signposted for some time but suggestions of a January deal had been swiftly dismissed by Anfield sources.
“One for the summer, maybe,” was the word. One for the here and now, as it turns out.
Diaz is heading to Merseyside, Liverpool paying an initial £37.5million (€45m/$50m), with up to £12.5m (€15m/$17m) in add-ons.
No problem if those are triggered, the club says, as it means the player will have been a success.
Diaz is seen as a signing similar to that of Diogo Jota, who arrived for a similar fee in 2020 and has since managed to do the impossible: disrupt and break up Liverpool’s established front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
Jota, with a record of 27 goals in 58 appearances, has already moved ahead of Firmino in the pecking order, and it will be interesting to see what Diaz’s arrival means for Mane, in particular.
Is it a competitor or, dare we say it, a replacement?
Mane, don’t forget, is into the final 18 months of his contract, and while all the discussion has surrounded a potential extension for Salah, GOAL understands there have been no formal negotiations with the Senegal star and his representatives at this stage.
The signing of Diaz, a 25-year-old who has played predominantly on the left flank for both Porto and Colombia, adds an extra layer of intrigue.
It had been anticipated that this would be a summer of change for Liverpool, with Michael Edwards, the sporting director, being replaced by his assistant, Julian Ward, and a host of first-team players either out of contract or entering their final year.
James Milner, the vice captain, is expected to leave, as are Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino.
Liverpool want to extend Salah’s contract, and Salah wants to stay, but the futures of Mane, Firmino, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are less than certain. Others, such as Joe Gomez and Neco Williams, may need to make tough decisions too.
The Reds prioritised a policy of retention last year, tying down Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Fabinho, Harvey Elliott and Jordan Henderson to new long-term contracts, but there is an acceptance that they will need to freshen up their squad over the next couple of years.
Key players will need to be challenged or indeed replaced, and the overall age profile will need to come down.
Diaz, Jota and Ibrahima Konate, who joined from Leipzig last summer, all represent significant steps in that direction, while the development of Elliott and Kaide Gordon, as well as Curtis Jones, who turned 21 on Sunday, offers further cause for excitement.
Keep an eye out, too, for 17-year-old midfielder Stefan Bajcetic, who is making a huge impression since joining from Villarreal a year ago.
That’s the future, but what of the present? Namely, how drastic will the surgery be, and could any of the big names be sacrificed this summer?
Firmino has been linked strongly with Barcelona of late, while pretty much all of the European giants are watching Salah’s situation with interest.Getty/GOAL
Mane’s form may have been patchy, over the past 18 months, but he would have no shortage of suitors, were he to be made available.
Replacing any of those players, let alone all three, would be a challenge, especially without targeting the game’s absolute elite: Erling Haaland, for example, or Kylian Mbappe.
Jota, though, has at least shown that it is possible, and that the environment Klopp and his staff have built at Liverpool can coax significant improvement out of talented, hungry footballers. Firmino, Mane and Salah, of course, are even better examples of that.
Diaz is certainly a talent, a right-footed left-winger who scores goals, creates goals and is known for his work-ethic and constant running.
Perfect for a Klopp side, you might say.
Porto believe he is destined for the highest level – sources told GOAL this weekend that Liverpool are signing an “amazing” footballer – and he will join a team that is competing on four fronts in the coming months.
He will be eligible to feature in the Champions League last-16 tie against Inter and should provide a strong option as the Reds pursue domestic glory too.
Tottenham’s loss, most definitely, can be the Reds’ gain. This is what their sceptics have been asking for: attacking depth, and a show of ambition from Fenway Sports Group in the transfer market.
What the signing means for Mane, Salah & Co. however, remains to be seen.