Luis Diaz faces Croatian Luka Modric, from Real Madrid. He became the first Colombian to start in a European Champions League final.
Photo: MOHAMMED BADRA
Only three Colombians have ever appeared on the lists of the best soccer players in the world in one season. Those of the older generations had plenty of talent, but they did not play abroad and had little international appearance. In fact, the recognitions that exist today were not made either.
Madrid, always Real Madrid
The Ballon d’Or began to be awarded in 1956, but only for European soccer players. Only in 1995 it was extended to players from all over the world. And the best FIFA award was established in 1991. In America, the newspaper The world, from Venezuela, recognized the most outstanding between 1971 and 1985, without Colombian figuration. And already since 1986 The countryfrom Uruguay, awards the figures who play in South America, there yes with a good harvest for ours, since Carlos Valderrama received them twice, and Teófilo Gutiérrez and Miguel Borja once each.
But that the great characters of world football talk about some Colombian and have him so well referenced is not usual. It happened with Faustino Asprilla, in 1993, when he arrived at Parma and became one of the stars of the Italian Serie A. That year he was sixth in the FIFA vote, won by Roberto Baggio.
Many years later, when our cracks began to massively conquer the leagues of the Old Continent, in 2012, Radamel Falcao García was fifth, second in the Puskás vote for the best goal and was in the ideal team. “He is the best 9 in the world”, the specialists agreed.
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And in 2014, with ample merit, James Rodríguez joined the soccer elite by being the top scorer in the World Cup in Brazil and scoring the best goal of the year. He was eighth in the voting.
Since then, no compatriot had generated as much praise as Luis Díaz, today in the mouth of all lovers of the ball. In just four months he has become a figure of Liverpool, one of the most prestigious clubs in England.
The tournament that changed his life
The only Copa América for Indigenous Peoples that has been played, Chile 2015, boosted the career of Luis Díaz, who won the subtitle with the Colombian team, but above all he impressed his coach, Carlos the kid Valderrama, who recommended it to the leaders of Atlético Júnior.
He arrived at the subsidiary, at Barranquilla FC and the following year he was already in the shark team. In three seasons he scored 24 goals, gave twelve assists and won four titles. He was also called up to the under-20 team and then to the senior team.
In 2019 he was hired by Porto de Portugal, with whom he played 125 games, scored 41 goals and won five trophies, in addition to fulfilling the dream of every Latin American footballer: to consolidate himself in European football. What neither he nor anyone imagined was that this was just the initial installment of the success that awaited him.
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It was in mid-2021 when life changed completely for the forward born in Barrancas, La Guajira, on January 13, 1997.
After a spectacular Copa América in Brazil in which he was the top scorer in the company of Lionel Messi, with four goals, several clubs from the Old Continent were interested in him.
There was talk of Juventus, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but the only one who contacted him was Liverpool, through one of the coach’s assistants Jürgen Klopp, who had been monitoring the peasant for two years. In November, the English club was the first to present a formal offer to Porto, for which 25 million euros were not enough.
On January 27, Lucho played with the national team in Barranquilla in a 1-0 defeat, which sentenced the elimination of the team in the World Cup in Qatar. The next day he traveled to Argentina, where his transfer to England was closed for 40 million euros, in addition to an extra 20 million for good performance bonuses, which Liverpool announced that he would gladly pay.
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In the midst of sadness for not going to the World Cup, Díaz stamped the most important signature of his life and immediately changed the chip. He just went through Portugal to pick up a couple of bags and five days later he was already at Anfield. He had only three practices with his teammates when he debuted on February 6. He played 32 minutes and provided an assist in a 3-1 win over Cardiff City in the Premier League.
Since then he has played 25 games, not counting the Champions League final against Real Madrid, with six goals and six assists. He won the Carabao Cup and the FA, appearing in both finals against Chelsea. But beyond his statistics, his appearance meant a shock in the attack of the networks.
“His impact on the campus has been incredible, he was a breath of fresh air for us. He understands our football one hundred percent, ”says coach Klopp, with whom the Colombian is already joking in his incipient English.
Although the language has not been an obstacle for Díaz to understand perfectly with the other strikers, in the most international artillery in the world, which includes the Egyptian Mohamed Salah, the Senegalese Sadio Mané, the Brazilian Roberto Firminho, the Portuguese Diogo Jota , the Belgian Divock Origi, the Japanese Takumi Minamino and the English youth Harvey Elliot.
Luis Díaz and Liverpool’s attack, neutralized by Courtois and Ancelotti
In a short time he has managed to demonstrate why he was hired and convince his colleagues of what he can contribute to the group. Disciplined and supportive in defensive tasks, he has been very unbalanced when he attacks on the wings.
He doesn’t overdo the transport of the ball and generally decides well what to do on each play. Added to that is his attitude to work and the joy with which he infects his colleagues. “He is a very simple, passionate boy, who clearly likes soccer, he enjoys training, he enjoys playing. He takes on his job professionally, but is motivated by the amateur”, said the Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcántara, one of his translators in practice, this week.
A couple of British football legends have fallen at the feet of the Colombian, For example, Jamie Carragher, now a commentator on Sky Sports and a columnist on The Telegraph, assures that “Luis was the spark that woke up all the attackers. He has some ridiculous skills and impressive technique for speed of execution.”
Gary Lineker, England’s all-time goalscorer, adds: “What a great signing. It is not usual for a player to come so quickly to contribute, less when he does it in the investment market, with the season halfway through and a group already very consolidated. I think he has a lot to do with Liverpool’s reaction in the Premier League, because in December, he was ten points behind Manchester City in the table”.
Luis Díaz, from playing barefoot to reaching the Champions League final
What has happened in these four months with Luis Díaz seems like a fairy tale. It can only be compared to what happened with James Rodríguez in the summer of 2014, when he left Monaco and, after scoring in the World Cup, was hired by Real Madrid. But unlike the 10, Lucho arrived with a lower profile. His talent is what has catapulted him and has now established him in the elite of world football.