Jürgen Klopp doesn’t have to do everything alone. Instead, the Liverpool head coach prefers to surround himself with experts who, he says, can do certain things better than he can. With sports director Michael Edwards, for example, Klopp is said to have a brilliant working relationship. Together they have brought top players like Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and goalkeeper Alisson to Liverpool – symbols of the successes of recent years.
This summer, Edwards is stepping down at his own request, with his deputy Julian Ward taking over. And he has also proven that he is able to thread key transfers. His test was a winter entry that “Sky Sports” described as a “big coup”: Luis Díaz.
At the end of January, the 25-year-old Colombia international moved from FC Porto to Liverpool for an initial fee of around 45 million euros. Tottenham Hotspur are also said to have been interested in him – among other things. In Portugal, the left winger drew attention to himself with his goal threat: Before leaving for England he scored 14 goals and provided five assists in 18 league games this season. “He’s an outstanding player that we’ve been watching for a long time,” said Klopp: “Luis is a player who we believe will make us better – now and in the future.”
In fact, it didn’t take Díaz long to get used to the Premier League. In 13 appearances he scored four goals and prepared three; in six Champions League games there were two goals and one assist. The semi-final second leg against Villarreal tipped in Liverpool’s favor when Díaz came on at half-time. It is quite possible that Klopp will use him from the start in the final against Real Madrid on Saturday evening (9 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the Champions League, on ZDF and on DAZN).
Díaz suits Klopp’s heavy metal football
Díaz is a dream for Liverpool fans, but a nightmare for his opponents. Because he combines technology and tricks with an insane speed. The left wing is his preferred position, from there he can move to the center and shoot at goal with his strong right foot or set teammates in scene. He also works at the back and suits Klopp’s so-called heavy metal football because he has a keen sense of winning possession in the last third of the pitch and adding even more punch to Liverpool’s pressing machine.
The Colombian is the logical continuation of the attacking game Klopp has cultivated since arriving at Liverpool in autumn 2015. The striker trio of Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino, which over the years have become emblematic of Liverpool’s resurgence and with which the club won first the Champions League and then their first league title in 30 years, was beginning to need a refresher.
Mané and Firmino are 30 years old, Salah will be in June. Additions like Díaz and Diogo Jota a year and a half ago show that Liverpool are gradually applying the lever here. For the BBC expert Chris Sutton, both players are signs of a “changed Liverpool” that is finally able to rest important players through a larger squad.
For Díaz, an appearance in the Champions League final would be the highlight of his career so far. He was twice Colombian champion with Junior FC and won the league and cup twice with Porto. He has also won the FA Cup with Liverpool. His talent was recognized early: The sports portal “The Athletic” found a newspaper article in which the then eleven-year-old Díaz was hailed as a “miniature superstar” after a tournament. At the only Copa Americana de Pueblos Indígenas in 2015, a tournament for the indigenous peoples of South America, he once again attracted attention as a member of the Wayuu.
Nevertheless, he only made his breakthrough comparatively late because he was too thin as a teenager. A former coach told the portal that by the time he was 17, Díaz had the physique of a 12-year-old, which is why he always made him eat double portions in the canteen. It worked – at the age of 21, Díaz made his debut for the Colombian national team against Argentina. “What a boy. What a story. What a player,” said Klopp after beating Díaz in the FA Cup: “He fits our football like a glove.”
When Liverpool met Benfica in the Champions League quarter-finals, the manager was asked if Díaz had given him any advice from his time in Portugal on Benfica’s weaknesses. “He tried it for ten minutes,” he joked, referring to his player’s not yet very good English, “but I didn’t understand a word.” Some things Klopp just has to do himself.
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