Saudi Pro League clubs are proving themselves to be quite problematic for Liverpool this summer.
With pre-season well underway, Al-Ittihad made a big money move for Fabinho and reports claim the Brazilian is just a medical away from that transfer being completed. Al-Ettifaq then made a surprise move for Jordan Henderson though, for some bizarre reason, they thought they would be able to bring him in on a free transfer. The fact the Reds want money – believed to be in the region of £20m — for their skipper has halted Steven Gerrard’s side in their tracks but they are expected to return with improved terms soon, safe in the knowledge Henderson wants the move.
Now Al-Hilal have involved themselves. According to reports, the PIF-backed club are expected to make a move for Luis Diaz. The Record claim a £43m bid is being readied for the 26-year-old with manager Jorge Jesus desperate to add the Colombia international to his already stacked squad. Al-Hilal have already spent more than £100m this summer, signing Ruben Neves from Wolves, Kalidou Koulibaly from Chelsea and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic from Lazio.
Obviously, the Reds have no interest in parting ways with their new number seven. Every player has a price though so the onus is on Al-Hilal to tempt Liverpool to the table. A £43m bid wouldn’t be anywhere near enough. Not when the 2019/20 Premier League champions paid an initial £37.5m (plus the prospect of add-ons) for the former Porto man in January 2022.
In the eyes of some fans, Diaz is one of the few untouchables in the squad.
Following his move to Anfield, the 39-cap international played a key role in the push for the quadruple. He was named Player of the Match in the FA Cup final and he started in both the Champions League and Carabao Cup finals.
Diaz was probably Liverpool’s best forward during the early stages of the 2022/23 campaign. Darwin Nuñez was still trying to find his feet while Mohamed Salah was used as more of a creator to accommodate the new £64m signing.
The fleet-footed winger scored three goals and chipped in with two assists in the opening 10 Premier League matches. In the game against Arsenal, there were signs of a partnership between him and Darwin too. It was all very encouraging.
A knee injury then ruled him out from October to April and he returned to a completely different team. As expected, he looked a little rusty. Having him back at all for some of the 2022/23 campaign was a bonus. Everything was geared towards the 2023/24 season.
Having claimed the iconic number seven jersey, the expectation was that he would be an integral part of the squad. But if Al-Hilal are prepared to test the waters, they must have been given some encouragement from the player or his representatives, right? After all, there is no point in them agreeing terms with a club if the player has no interest in joining. It does, of course, occasionally happen. Spurs tried to sign him while he was with Porto even though he wasn’t interested in that move.
But the way Saudi Arabian clubs have acted this summer makes me think there might be something there. They aren’t the sort to waste time, are they?
What's his worth?
So if Diaz is open to a move, what sort of money should Liverpool be asking for?
The Barrancas-born winger doesn’t share the same playing profile as Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane. He isn’t an output monster. Instead, he’s more of a traditional winger who is at his best when he’s able to carry the ball.
What I mean by this is his Expected Goal per 90 average since the switch to Merseyside is just 0.27. For a little context here, Mane had an Expected Goal per 90 average of 0.46 at Liverpool while Salah’s average across his six seasons with the club is 0.63 with penalties included and 0.54 without.
As far as wide players go, these were genuine goal threats for the Reds. Diaz is yet to show he can hit such highs. In fact, the only time he’s been at that level was during his final half-season with Porto when he posted an xG90 average of 0.73. That was an anomaly though. Prior to that, in his two full seasons in Portugal, his average was 0.29.
Based on these numbers alone, you could theoretically replace Diaz for around £40m.
For reference, Football Transfers put Diaz's xTV (expected transfer value — calculated by an AI model that takes into account a wide range of information) at €37.1m (£32m), but this is largely due to the fact that he's not been playing. His peak xTV sits at €57.4m (£50m).
However, those figures are unlikely to bring Liverpool to the table. If an £80m bid arrived, maybe the Reds would take it under consideration. The issue is though that it means a new attacker would have to be signed along with one or two more midfielders and potentially a centre-back. It is too much of an overhaul and we’re yet to truly see what the plan is with Diaz. So it would take something truly remarkable to convince Liverpool to part ways with their new number seven.