Liverpool signed Luis Diaz in January 2022 but this might be considered his first full season, timed perfectly for Jurgen Klopp’s grand Anfield rebuild.
It’s been a big summer at Liverpool ahead of an even bigger season for the Reds, one which will feature no Champions League football for the first time since Jurgen Klopp’s first full campaign seven years ago.
As expected, the midfield has been refreshed with the arrivals of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai – and the possibility of Romeo Lavia – offsetting the mostly necessary departures of James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The likely exits of both Jordan Henderson and Fabinho were not predicted but nor was the overall mass disruption from the Saudi Pro League, which is now also home to Roberto Firmino.
Given the loss of so much experience and leadership at the club on top of last season’s disappointment, it very much has the feeling of a new era at Anfield as Klopp looks to build his second great side at Anfield.
This is something he has failed to do at both Borussia Dortmund and Mainz but in truth, circumstances dictated that more than anything.
For this to happen, Klopp will need new signings to hit the ground running and make the desired impact, as well as for other recent recruits to raise their levels.
Most notable among those are Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz, signed in the three transfer windows previous to this current one.
Gakpo and Nunez seem likely to fight it out for a spot in the starting line-up as the no. 9 in the front three, even if they aren’t stereotypical centre-forwards.
Diaz, on the other hand, seems a cert to start the season on the left-hand side, and as such a lot will be expected of him.
The first of the three to join in January 2022, the Colombian made an instant impact on Merseyside, serving as an energiser for the rest of a campaign that came agonisingly close to ending with an unprecedented Quadruple.
Both an excellent option from the bench and the start, Diaz fit in with the high-octane style employed by Klopp, his four goals and four assists from just 11 league starts a testament to that.
As was the more muted reaction to Sadio Mane’s departure to Bayern Munich last summer. Whereas six months prior, it would have prompted alarm bells at Anfield, Diaz appeared a readymade replacement and crucially, someone with his best years ahead of him.
The decision to move on from Mane has since been vindicated with the Senegalese star’s form falling off a cliff in Bavaria and the odds of him becoming the latest ex-Red to make the move to Saudi shortening by the day.
While Liverpool experienced a collective malaise at the start of last season, Diaz was somewhat of an exception, perhaps because he was still new and thus not subjected to the intensity of the previous five years.
A knee injury suffered in October and then exacerbated during rehabilitation kept him out until April, meaning the same number of starts came in his entire second season as his first six months.
As such, barring any further serious injuries, this can be viewed as Diaz’s first full season at Anfield; it’s time to step up and show out.
Liverpool have no intention to consider €50m verbal approach from Al Hilal for Luís Díaz. He’s part of Jurgen Klopp long term plans. 🔴🇨🇴 #LFC
Liverpool want Luís to stay and be part of the squad this season despite Saudi calls. pic.twitter.com/0TEL33sF6i
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) July 19, 2023
After all, he was signed for a fee which could rise to £49 million and isn’t a kid anymore, set to turn 27 at the midway point of the upcoming campaign.
Klopp’s call to hand Diaz the club’s fabled No. 7 shirt speaks to both the trust and belief in him, as well as an expectation that he will be a key man for the Reds.
The hope is that the former Porto man will go the way of Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and another South American icon, Luis Suarez and not that of Robbie Keane, Vladimir Smicer and Harry Kewell.
The transformation of the entire midfield is likely to be the talking point in the opening weeks of the season, but the front line’s own remodelling is near-complete, and it’s time for Mo Salah to have a full-time Robin to his Batman once again.
After all, the front three of the Egyptian, Mane and Firmino was paramount to so much of the Reds’ success under Klopp.
Diaz could very well be a pillar of the German’s second great side. A big season lies ahead for both club and player.