Editor’s Column: What to make of Papa Diaz’s untimely comments…

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“There was never anything serious with Real Madrid or Atlético [in 2022],” Luis Diaz’s father Mane Diaz told Cadena Ser (via the Mirror) this week.

“Liverpool were always more determined and concrete to sign Luis.

” But we haven’t lost our hope yet…” he added.

“Luis is playing well and Spanish clubs are always active in the market.”

This is the kind of unhelpful, ungrateful comment you occasionally hear during international breaks. It wasn’t made by Diaz, but his father, who has earned himself a cult-like status this season.

He was kidnapped in Colombia last year, which made headlines world-wide. Thankfully he was returned unharmed – and has mostly been in England following Liverpool and his son since. Papa Diaz, as he has become affectionately known, has sat with the away fans, shared drinks on trains and posed for thousands of photos on his tour of England. Good for him. It looks like he’s having a great time and why shouldn’t he?

But it should perhaps be no surprise that deep down his motivation is for his son is to play at one of Spain’s biggest clubs. And if he’s saying things like that, you can be sure Luis Diaz feels it too, even if he wouldn’t declare it publicly. It’s the same for most South American players. We all remember Coutinho and Luis Suarez. Liverpool was a stepping stone for them, although with the former, it had a catastrophic effect on his career.

Spain’s hot. Diaz speaks the language. Liverpool is a beautiful and brilliant city but you cannot be surprised to hear a Colombian would rather live and play in Barcelona.

I’m not offended by this. And perhaps I can deal with it because I think Diaz is ultimately replaceable.

Aged 27, he’s at an age where we’d still get a huge sum for him. In a few seasons’ time, that figure will diminish as his pace goes. Look at what happened to Sadio Mane. He hit 30 and declined to such a point he’s now doing not very much in Saudi Arabia. Every player is different but elite performances over 30 are not a guarantee. Diaz obviously has a few top years left in him but now is the time to cash in if the opportunity arises – as a theoretic £65-70m fee would surely be attainable.

I actually have loved his performances recently. He’s been borderline heroic the past few months with the manner in which he’s dragged the Reds up the field with his lung-busting dribbling. He runs and runs and runs. Diaz’s fitness levels are otherworldly.

The caveat though is that he still isn’t delivering big numbers of goals and assists. He has 40 appearances, 12 goals and three assists. Most tellingly, he’s created only two big chances for team-mates. That shows that while his dribbling into the box is excellent, his final ball is not. This number should be far higher for someone so technically capable.

Darwin Nunez is supposedly so much less composed but has way more assists and chances created. The stats sometimes don’t match the narrative.

Liverpool are in no rush to sell as Diaz is still contracted until 2027. So we won’t be bullied into it. Real Madrid will sign Kylian Mbappe, which fills their left-wing spot, so they won’t be in the running. Papa Diaz including Atletico in his list of dream clubs felt a little disrespectful though, given how much smaller and worse they are than Liverpool, as well as the fact Diego Simeone’s tactics would stifle his flair and creativity.

Johan Bakayoko seems a mighty fine potential left-winger we could replace Diaz with, but really, that’s a job for Richard Hughes, MIchael Edwards and the new manager.

We don’t know yet what style, tactics or formation we’ll play. When new managers come in, things change. People and playing staff do, too. The squad’s obviously a very good one already and with the youngsters coming through, we don’t need an overhaul. But if Diaz wants out, we probably shouldn’t stand in his way.

There’ll be no hard feelings. He’s a quality player. So fun to watch. If he can maintain his form, effort and hopefully start being a little more clinical in the box, he’ll play an enormous role in what could still be a monumental season.

Essentially, what will be will be. We have a much bigger summer issue to contend with Mo Salah’s deal expiring in 12 months.

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