Liverpool: Gomez and Van Dijk put through their paces
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Patson Daka appears to be a top target for Liverpool this summer with the 22-year-old coming off the back of an excellent campaign for Red Bull Salzburg, but Michael Edwards’ work would not be finished there. Daka first burst onto the scene at Salzburg back in 2017 but it was in his third season at the Austrian outfit where the striker began to show his true potential.
He played in both Champions League group matches against Liverpool and, while he failed to score with Erling Haaland stealing the limelight, reports soon emerged that the Reds were tracking his progress.
At the end of that campaign, Daka had scored 24 goals and provided eight assists in 31 league matches.
But his best was yet to come in this past season as the 22-year-old found the net on 34 occasions, making him one of the most lethal forwards in European football.
Of course, the Austrian Bundesliga may not be regarded as one of the elite leagues in Europe.
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However, a quick look at the record transfers from the division and the likes of Naby Keita, Sadio Mane, Dominik Szoboszlai and Haaland have all gone on to enjoy huge success.
Still, making a move to sign Daka presents Liverpool’s sporting director with two dilemmas moving forward.
While history suggests young players coming out of the Austrian Bundesliga are more than capable of reaching their potential, it still presents somewhat of a risk.
With both Mane and Roberto Firmino below par in front of goal this past season, Liverpool’s attacking threat diminished deeply.
Mohamed Salah took most of the burden and thrived with another stellar campaign while Diogo Jota also impressed, but Jurgen Klopp will want more reliable options to step in.
Daka has the track record of being a proven goalscorer with the potential to become a star in European football.
But he also has limited experience of playing at the highest level, with Liverpool aiming to close the gap to Manchester City next season.
There is a small bonus in that Zambia failed to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations, meaning Daka would not leave midway through the season to play in the tournament.
If the risk in signing Daka pays off though and he realises his full potential at Liverpool then that presents another issue entirely for Edwards.
Jota is already banging on the door to break up Liverpool’s usual attacking trident of Salah, Mane and Firmino.
The latter came under intense criticism at times this past season, something Klopp was keen to brush off and repeat his admiration of the Brazilian forward.
But if Daka too comes in and emulates the kind of impact Jota made in his debut season then questions will be asked on the futures of Mane, Firmino and Salah.
Both Mane and Firmino are 29 years of age with Salah a year younger with all three players entering the final two years of their contracts.
If no new deals are signed for Klopp’s favoured front three by next summer and Daka is thriving at Anfield, Liverpool may well have to look at cashing in on Mane, Salah or Firmino.
Salah and Mane continue to be linked with big-money moves to Europe’s elite clubs with the former hinting on several occasions that he would be tempted by a move to Spain.
Daka’s potential rewards may outweigh the overall risk of bringing him to Liverpool and the young forward has all the attributes to fit into Klopp’s system.
Pressing forward with a move to sign Daka though suggests Liverpool are already looking one step ahead with some big decisions to come.
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