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Salah or Mane leaving Liverpool would be 'astounding' and Luis Diaz is the real deal, says Owen

10:00 SAST 2022/03/08
Mohamed Salah Sadio Mane Liverpool 2021-22
In an exclusive interview with GOAL, the former Reds striker discusses Jurgen Klopp's wealth of attacking talent

It would be “astounding” if Liverpool were to allow either Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane to leave the club this summer, according to former Reds star Michael Owen.

Both players - as well as Roberto Firmino, the club’s third attacking stalwart - are set to enter the final year of their contract, and both will be 30 by the time next season gets underway.

Talks with Salah over a new four-year deal are yet to reach a resolution, while it is understood that negotiations with Mane and his camp have been quiet for some time, even though Jurgen Klopp is keen to ensure both players remain at Anfield.

What did Owen say?

Speaking exclusively to GOAL ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Inter, Owen said: “I would be very surprised if anybody leaves. Liverpool have built for the future, yes, but the here and now is still so important. 

“You can wish your life away planning for the future, thinking about three or four years down the line, but then all of a sudden you don’t win anything, and those players you’re planning with turn out to be not quite as good because they are not part of a winning side.

“There’s a balance to be had, and it feels like Liverpool are getting that right.

“In terms of individuals, I’d be astounded if any of them left, to be honest. Football changes all the time, but at this current time, Liverpool is the destination for top players. I don’t see why or how you would leave. 

“Where can you go that’s better? You can go sideways, yes, to someone like Manchester City, but Liverpool wouldn’t sell you and why would you want to tarnish your reputation anyway? 

“Barcelona and Real Madrid aren't what they were when I had to make a decision all those years ago. Liverpool are a different animal these days; they can entice anyone they want, and with anyone who is already there, the club holds all the aces. 

“I’d be astounded if anybody goes this summer.”

What does Owen think about Jota & Diaz?

While the futures of Salah and Mane, and to a lesser extent Firmino, continue to dominate the agenda, Liverpool have already begun planning for the future.

And with both Diogo Jota, signed in 2020, and Luis Diaz, who arrived from Porto in January, having made an immediate, and substantial, impact on Merseyside, Owen believes the Reds are in a stronger position than ever, even considering the contract situations of their long-serving forward line.

“Oh, 100 per cent,” he said. “There’s safety in numbers now. If the worst comes to the worst, a bad injury or a player wanting to leave, then there’s security. We have five top-class players who you’d be happy to start in any game. And then there are one or two behind that as well, who can come on and change a game.

“It had to be a worry having those three players, Mane, Salah and Firmino, for so long, and all of them being the same age. At some point you’ve got to start planning for the future, and I just think now that with Jota and Diaz, all of a sudden it takes all of those worries away. 

“Not that you can replace Salah, or anyone for that matter, but you can evolve the team. And I can’t imagine Liverpool falling away now in terms of quality in that position, with the players they’ve got. It’s been a masterstroke bringing those two in.”

Owen has been particularly impressed by Diaz, who has settled in superbly since his arrival. 

“I’d watched him obviously for some time covering the Champions League,” he said. “And I covered his first game for Liverpool [against Cardiff in the FA Cup].

“It was only a brief appearance, half an hour or so, but I said live on air that he just looked like a Liverpool player. Out of possession, I just thought ‘this kid looks like he’s been here all his life’. 

“We all know he’s got talent, when he runs with the ball he’s electric, he can score goals, he can do a lot. But as soon as Liverpool lost the ball, it was like ‘wow’. I’d seen it before, from Salah, Mane, Firmino, Jota. 

“He just seems to fit like a glove. He looks like the definition of a Liverpool player. That red shirt suits him, for sure.

“Sometimes a player comes in and you just know right away that they belong. I remember [Nicolas] Anelka coming in [in 2001], and thinking ‘wow, this lad can play!’ He’s the one that stands out from my career, as making a big first impression, but Diaz has certainly done that.”

Who does Owen think will win the Champions League?

Liverpool go into Tuesday’s game with Inter knowing they already have one foot in the quarter-finals, following their 2-0 first-leg win at San Siro.

Manchester City, too, will be in the last eight having beaten Sporting CP 5-0 in their first leg in Portugal, and Owen believes the Champions League winner will be one of the two Premier League giants.

“I said at the start of the season that I couldn’t see anything other than an English club winning it, and to be honest I can’t see anything other than Liverpool or Man City,” he said.

“I looked at the odds the other day and saw that Bayern Munich were second favourites, which shocked me. I’m not sure how that works.

“With Liverpool or Man City, it feels like a toss of a coin. They’re so closely matched. There’s still a long way to go, but for me the winner will be one of those two.”

Further reading 

BT Sport is the exclusive home of UEFA Champions League football. Watch Liverpool v Inter on Tuesday 8th March from 7pm live on BT Sport 2, online and on the BT Sport app. For more info, visit btsport.com