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Luis Diaz is a marvel – if only he could finish

Luis Diaz is a marvel – if he only he could finish

If Luis Diaz possessed a ruthless streak in the penalty box he would be the world’s most expensive footballer.

We will know in May if the Colombian had the title destiny in those boots on this intoxicating Sunday afternoon, his three wasted second half chances against Manchester City the difference between an honourable point and momentum shifting victory.

Diaz gave a masterclass in flawed beauty, so much to chastise and admire, bless and curse. The pint was half full each time Diaz terrorised Kyle Walker in a manner to which few can aspire, and half empty when slicing the easiest of chances hopelessly wide. All those downing those glasses in the bars around Anfield after the game will agree that they should have been raising a toast to a South American matchwinner.

Kyle Walker (C) Luis Diaz (R) - Luis Diaz is a marvel – if he only he could finish
Luis Diaz (right) was causing chaos for Kyle Walker (centre) with his weaving runs - Getty Images/Michael Regan

Anyone watching Diaz’s constant menace combined with dire finishing will be divided on how to best assess him.

If application and courage is the measure of a performance, he has been 10/10 every week since his return from a personal family trauma.

In a fixture brimful of virtuosity, he left as much of an impression as anyone in what his manager, Jurgen Klopp, considered one of the highest standard football matches he has seen.

There was no coincidence that in a post-match review full of superlatives for both sets of players, Diaz was the one of his own he namechecked.

“Luis Diaz against Walker, who is officially the fastest in the Premier League, and Rodri,” said Klopp, before referring to the ‘massive hearts’ on view.

And there is the dilemma for those crunching the numbers on Diaz’s overall display.

Diaz was ultimately undermined by his lack of end product at the moment of truth, a chance to strike one of the most celebrated goals of the Klopp era evading him.

But as part of a new Liverpool front three which could soon be lauded as much as its predecessor, there is an understandable reluctance to hammer someone for failing to land the killer punch when they have done so much to cause an undisputed heavyweight champion onto the ropes.

So often Diaz led the Liverpool charge, dragging spectators to the edge of their seats only to force them to fling themselves and their arms back in exasperation as he misfired.

Klopp, naturally, sees only the qualities of his left winger; that ceaseless desire to take possession and go again, unperturbed by what has preceded his next attempted dribble and attempt.

There were moments of balletic brilliance on the touchline, and countless others times when he would literally run through a blue wall, emerging unscathed in readiness for the next showdown.

Diaz has run marathons for the Anfield cause this season, mostly at a sprinters’ pace. He has also done so in the most trying personal circumstances, his father, Luis Snr’s presence at Anfield fixtures since Christmas a reminder that there is more to life than missing a one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Reflections on Liverpool’s season have tended to focus on the mercurial talent of Darwin Nunez – the wildcat who might miss from six yards only to find the top corner from twenty-five. Diaz is not dissimilar in how prolific he misses acceptable opportunities, the drawback being his goal rate does not often make amends.

Where it really matters, there is no comparison to the player he replaced in Klopp’s front three – Sadio Mane.

He has seamlessly absorbed Mane’s role in executing the tactical and team ethic, as capable of winning possession and leading Klopp’s high press to keep elite defenders penned in.

Sadly for him and the team, he is not possessed with the same poise and cunning when supplied with the kind of pass from Mohamed Salah which demanded a shot to match.

As with the catalogue of misses in the Nunez portfolio, Liverpool have rarely paid a price for the lack of a finishing touch.

Klopp’s side has still lost just twice all season - and lest we forget it was a clinical Diaz strike wrongly scrubbed off against Tottenham Hotspur that contributed to one of them.

Now Liverpool have ten games to ensure their title bid is not defined by the Diaz goal in North London that wasn’t, and those at Anfield that should have been.

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