Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is still ridiculing the idea that his team could win a historic four-time trophy, but admits they have the best team during their tenure at Anfield.
One reason for that bold statement is the recent arrival of Colombian winger Luis Diaz, who has boosted the German attack options in the second half of the season.
The Reds ended a 10-year wait to win the local cup last week, beating Chelsea on penalties to win the League Cup.
They are the favorites to reach the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday – 2-0 up against Inter Milan after the first leg of their last-16 tie – while the heavyweight team easily advanced to the FA Cup quarter-finals.
The seven-game winning streak in the Premier League has rekindled the Premier League title race with Manchester City, which looked set to lose at the end of the year.
January could ruin Liverpool’s season, with Egypt’s Mohamed Salah and Senegal’s Sadio Mane heading to the Africa Cup of Nations, where Senegal beat Egypt on penalties in the final.
But Diaz reached the end of the transfer window from Porto for a fee that could rise to £ 50 million ($ 66 million), refreshing Klopp’s attacking options as he mounts a four-pronged challenge.
– Tripartite –
Much of Klopp’s success has been based on a trio of Salah, Mane and Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino.
But all three are out of contract at the end of next season, at which point they will all be over 30.
“It was necessary, we can’t rely on these boys,” Klopp said after Diaz’s 1-0 win over West Ham on Saturday.
“You need to bring quality and fresh energy. We tried that and it looks like it worked. “
Klopp could afford the luxury of leaving 17-goal Diego Jota on the bench over the weekend, while the game was still balanced with Salah giving a rare rest before the Inter visit.
In San Siro three weeks ago, it was Diaz’s performance that helped turn the tide as Klopp made four changes before the hour mark.
Inter were on the better side in the first 75 minutes, but the financial gap between the Premier League and Serie A appeared in the final stages.
The Italian champions, who were forced to sell Romelu Lukaku and Acharaf Hakimi last year due to financial problems, faded into the final stage when Firmino and Salah returned to Merseyside with goals to give Tie a one-sided performance.
“The boys now have really good quality in depth, but if we don’t have this depth we can’t play all the competitions and go further in the competitions – there’s no chance,” Klopp said.
“You can do that for a year when you’re lucky with injuries, but I think we had years where Bobby, Sadio and Moe played a lot of games.”
The 25-year-old Diaz has scored only once in eight games for Liverpool, but has been on the winning side in all of them as running straight with the ball and hitting it fits seamlessly into Liverpool’s style.
Even players who enjoyed great success at Anfield, such as Andy Robertson and Fabinho, were initially given months to resolve and meet the demands of the club.
“When we saw him play for Porto, we thought we’d do the same,” Klopp said. “He looks like a Liverpool player.”