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Luis Diaz must be an addition, not a replacement for Liverpool

Luis Diaz's signing and what comes after it will define Liverpool's immediate future.



Liverpool signing Luis Diaz must be a statement moving forward about their squad construction, not a move made in anticipation of a key departure.

Luis Diaz is not a young player. The new Liverpool signing is 25 years of age.

Liverpool will get the prime of his career over the coming five years, but he's not a 21 or 22-year-old who is still in the weeds of his development. Diaz is a signing for now and the immediate future. Considering their general transfer decisions, it's very unlikely that Liverpool paid as much as they did for Diaz to have him be a backup.

More pessimistic fans will think his arrival could impact Mohamed Salah's contract extension. Is Diaz a replacement for him in the front three? Salah's contract talks have prolonged to the point that it's hard to immediately dismiss the idea of him moving to Real Madrid.

But if Salah does sign his new deal, then the question mark moves to Sadio Mane and Robert Firmino.

Mane has suffered dips in form over recent times but has been a key cog in Klopp's success. Few players in the world combine Mane's speed with the work rate and technical ability that he does. If Diaz is 80% of the player that Mane is he will be a huge success at Anfield. Since Diaz primarily plays on the left wing, there's reason to be suspicious of how he impacts Mane.

But Mane primarily plays on the left largely because Salah is on the right. Mane can play anywhere across the front three if needed.

Firmino is a Klopp favourite and the most specialist attacker that Liverpool have. He doesn't play as much as he used to and that could impact his happiness at the club. If he forces his way out, it would not be a surprise. But it would be a surprise if Klopp was in a rush to let him leave even despite Diojo Jota overtaking him as the preferred starter. Firmino will still play in big games so long as Klopp is at the club.

Realistically, signing Diaz can't just be a door opening for someone else to leave.

Liverpool can't catch up to Manchester City building like that. Paraphrasing Bart Simpson when he was placed in the remedial class, "We're going to go slower than everyone else so we can catch up to them? Cuckoo." Diaz can be a replacement for the likes of Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino.

He cannot be a justification for one of Liverpool's established starters to leave. Firmino is 30 now. Mane and Salah are 29. With Jota and Diaz as 25 year olds, Liverpool have the perfect five-into-three group to prolong the careers of the older players while maximizing the impact of the younger players.

If Diaz is worthy of the price Liverpool paid for him, Klopp can comfortably rotate between those five and not suffer for it. It's not the same as putting Minamino or Origi into the starting lineup. It definitely won't be the same as asking Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to play on the wing or as a false nine.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has suffered for that movement and his injuries. Letting him return to being a full-time midfielder should help him. But having five attackers with the pace and technical ability to keep defences stretched will help every midfielder.

Harvey Elliott is about to return. Fabinho is in great form. Jordan Henderson isn't but is not yet old enough to be in a full-on decline. Curtis Jones is starting to show glimpses of his potential again, while Thiago is once again coming back from injury. Liverpool still need an impact central midfielder. In reality, they need exactly what Gini Wijnaldum departed with.

With a Wijnaldum-like signing in the Summer, Liverpool can stop turning to James Milner when they need an impact off the bench. They'll have two attackers as well as one of their younger, attacking midfielders.

That's the level of depth that Championship-caliber teams need. You don't need 10 players at each position, but you can't have a severe drop-off from your starter to your primary backups. If Diaz lives up to expectations as a €60 million signing, then Liverpool have that in defence, attack and goalkeeper.

They just need that midfielder.

Pat Nevin on Hakim Ziyech and his recent form.

 

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DIOGO JOTA Liverpool Luis Diaz Man City Mohamed Salah Roberto Firmino Sadio Mane

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