Luis Diaz is Colombia's Copa America hero – but his Liverpool future is far less clear

Luis Diaz is supposed to be the lionheart of Liverpool and Colombia.

He’s the silky-skilled entertainer who always tries to make a difference through his courage and bravery. The man who can change a game with his magic. The golden boy of the national team on which so much hope is pinned upon this summer.

Yet while Diaz is lighting it up for Colombia in the Copa America, discussions at Liverpool continue over whether he is the long-term answer to filling one of the slots in their forward line.

Liverpool have not received any offers for Diaz and are not looking to sell him. Similarly, they will not be making a formal bid for Newcastle United’s Anthony Gordon because of the Tyneside club’s high valuation.

The fact remains, however, that Liverpool like Gordon and there are question marks over Diaz’s output. While Liverpool do not want to lose him, if they receive a significant offer, they would surely be obliged to consider it. So what happens next is not as cut-and-dried as it might seem.

Aged 27, Diaz is at the peak of his career and perhaps the most valuable he has ever been, so the dilemma for Liverpool is whether to cash in if a big bid arrives or prepare for talks over a new deal.

Watching him in Colombia’s 5-0 win over Panama in the Copa America quarter-finals on Saturday night would suggest there is only one route Liverpool should take.

He was electric and relentless in his approach, which are both classic Diaz traits that Liverpool fans have grown accustomed to seeing. But, crucially, there was also end product: he played a key part in Colombia’s first two goals before scoring a stunning third himself.

Diaz’s strike did owe a debt to James Rodriguez, arguably the player of the tournament so far, as the former Real Madrid player’s quick free kick over the top of the Panama backline set Diaz clear.

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Diaz took a touch on his chest but was aware of the Panama defenders running back to close him down, so decided to try to lob goalkeeper Orlando Mosquera from around 20 yards out.

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Diaz placed his shot to perfection, the ball arcing over the retreating Mosquera and dropping into the net.

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It was the highlight of an exceptional night for Diaz, who wore Panama down to such an extent that all they could do was foul him. On 65 minutes, coach Nestor Lorenzo decided an early withdrawal would not only protect his prized asset but help reserve energy for the semi-final with Uruguay, a much sterner test of their credentials.

There is no doubting Diaz’s popularity in his home country — the way he was roared from the field in Arizona was testament to that. For Colombia fans, he’s the star who floats between striker and left winger, and tends to deliver when it matters. His goal on Saturday was his fourth in as many Copa America knockout games, and Colombia, now unbeaten in 27 matches, will look to Diaz in their attempt to win the trophy for the first time since 2001.

One game doesn’t tell the whole story, though, and until the weekend Diaz hadn’t scored from open play or registered an assist during the tournament (he did score a penalty in the 3-0 win over Costa Rica). True, he had not had many high-quality chances, but it seemed a low return for such a talismanic figure.

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The data suggests Diaz is more clinical for Colombia, even if he receives fewer chances. He produces just under a goal or assist every other game for Liverpool (0.47), whereas his output in the same metric for Colombia is 0.39. He has more shots and touches in the box for Liverpool, largely because they dominate games more often because of their status as one of the top sides in the Premier League.

He has also tends to drift infield more for Liverpool, into central areas which are more likely to yield shots and key passes to teammates, as shown by his pass distribution maps for Liverpool last season and Colombia in the Copa America, where he has operated tighter to the left touchline.

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Diaz tends to be a little more clinical in international football, although the frustrations around his efficiency were summed up in the group stage game against Brazil when his Liverpool team-mate, Alisson, lost possession by playing out from the back. Diaz should have made him pay but Alisson saved his effort.

The great unknown with Diaz is whether anything is likely to change with his productivity. History suggests he is is one-goal-in-four man — his goals per game rates for Colombia (0.26) and Liverpool in the Premier League (0.24) are very similar — who is capable of producing spectacular moments. The goal against Panama on Saturday was one example; another was coming off the bench to equalise late on against Luton Town last season, just days after his father had been kidnapped in Colombia.



Luis Diaz: The remarkable rise of ‘Luchito’, Liverpool’s ‘true miracle’

It is a conundrum for new manager Arne Slot. The Dutchman is well known to love wingers and there will be elements of Diaz’s game which will surely excite him, but he also has an in-form Cody Gakpo to consider. Gakpo has scored freely at Euro 2024 in helping Netherlands reach the semi-finals, albeit in a more central role, so a starting place for Diaz is not guaranteed.

What he’s starting to do for Colombia, admittedly “only” against Panama, will help make an impression, especially as a late return to pre-season will follow the tournament.

Whether Diaz can remain at the heart of a surprise success for Colombia will also impact his situation at Liverpool. Delivering on the big stage is what he was signed for but two and a half years in, opinions remain divided as to whether he can do that consistently enough for Anfield’s liking.

(Top photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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