Left on a free, now worth £45m: Liverpool fumbled a Diaz upgrade in “electric” PL star
The Reds parted ways with the English wizard at a young age, and he is now starring in the top-flight.
Liverpool maintained their place at the top of the Premier League table this weekend as they secured a 3-1 win over Burnley at Anfield on Saturday.
The Reds are now two points ahead of reigning champions Manchester City, who briefly overtook them earlier in the day, but have played one more game than Pep Guardiola’s side.
There was a historic moment for a certain Reds player during the first half as Trent Alexander-Arnold recorded his 58th Premier League assist, with a brilliant corner for Diogo Jota’s goal.
As you can see in the table above, the Liverpool academy graduate has now provided more assists than any other defender in the history of the division – one more than teammate Andy Robertson, who could still overtake him before the end of their respective careers.
It was a great moment for Alexander-Arnold and for the Reds as one of their academy products has gone on to become a star in the Premier League.
Most valuable former Liverpool academy prospects
However, Liverpool have not always made the most of the talent that has been within their academy system as one of the most valuable former players never went on to make a first-team appearance for the club.
Alexander-Arnold, as per Transfermarkt, is the most valuable ex-academy gem for Liverpool at €70m (£59.7m), and current Newcastle United forward Anthony Gordon is second with a value of €50m (£42.6m).
That is slightly lower, though, than his actual value as the Magpies snapped him up from fellow Premier League side Everton in a £45m deal in January 2023.
As you can see in the table above, Liverpool have produced a number of highly-valued young players in recent years who are currently flying high in the Premier League.
Gordon, however, is one they may feel got away from them as they decided to release him at a young age, and he has since gone on to shine for Everton and Newcastle in the top-flight.
TalkSPORT previously reported that the winger had been let go by the Reds at the age of 11, which allowed the Toffees to snap him up for their academy.
Of course, it would be incredibly harsh to blame anyone at the club for that decision as there is no telling how a player will develop and go on to improve or change at the age of 11.
However, there may be a sense of ‘what if?’ as the 22-year-old forward would be an upgrade on current Liverpool attacker Luis Diaz, based on their respective performances so far in the Premier League this season.
Luis Diaz’s season in numbers
The Colombia international, who scored the team’s second goal in the 3-1 win over Burnley on Saturday, has been a solid, if unspectacular, performer for the Reds so far this season.
Diaz produced four goals and two assists in 17 games in the top-flight throughout the 2022/23 campaign, and is yet to really kick on from that return in front of goal.
The 27-year-old whiz has made 23 appearances in the Premier League so far this season and scored five goals from an xG of 5.56, which suggests that he is slightly underperforming as a finisher.
He has also only provided two assists and created one ‘big chance’ for his teammates in those 23 matches. In fact, the Reds gem ranks within the bottom 11% of Premier League attacking midfielders and wingers for Expected Assisted Goals (0.11) per 90.
These statistics suggest that the former Porto star has not provided outstanding quality as either a scorer or a creator of goals for Jurgen Klopp on the left flank, with average finishing and below-average creativity.
Meanwhile, Gordon has outperformed him on both fronts for Newcastle under Eddie Howe this season, having joined the Magpies from Everton in January of last year.
Anthony Gordon’s brilliance this season
The England U21 international has found his feet in Tyneside and has established himself as one of their stars with his sublime displays in the league this term.
Gordon managed four goals and zero assists in 32 Premier League matches for Newcastle and Everton combined throughout the 2022/23 campaign, which made the £45m fee spent on his services look slightly questionable.
However, the 22-year-old whiz, who is five years younger than Diaz, has taken his game to the next level under Howe this season, and is showing his quality week-in-week-out as a sensation in the division.
As you can see in the table above, Gordon has provided his team with more end product than the Liverpool winger in the final third with more goals, more assists, more big chances created, and more xA.
He has also been more ruthless in front of goal in comparison to Diaz as the English magician has overperformed his xG for Newcastle so far.
The Magpies starlet, who was once described as “electric” by journalist Keith Downie, only racked up seven goals and eight assists in 78 matches for Everton but has gone on to find consistency at the top end of the pitch at St. James’ Park.
His output this season suggests that he would be an upgrade on Diaz – not to say that he is a bad player by any stretch – in the current Liverpool team, due to his superior quality as a finisher and a creator from the left flank, and that is why the Reds fumbled when they released him for £0 at the age of 11.
As aforementioned, it would be incredibly harsh to criticise the club for what now appears to be a mistake, due to how early into his academy career it was, but it is interesting to imagine what could have happened if they kept faith in the talented whiz.