Liverpool winger Luis Diaz says he treats every game as a chance to seek revenge for the difficulties he has endured to get him to this point in his career.
The 25-year-old, who arrived at Anfield in January from Porto for an initial fee of £37.5million, has already made such an impact there is every chance he will start in the Champions League final in Paris later this month.
It is a remarkable rise from his humble beginnings in La Guajira – one of Colombia’s most neglected areas, where in 2019 the official death rate from malnutrition for children under five among the indigenous Wayuu people, of which Diaz is one, was nearly six times the national rate.
One of his hobbies as a malnourished child himself was to watch trains pass by his small village of Barrancas carrying coal, much of which was destined for Europe.
He could surely not have imagined then that years later he would head to the same continent and set the football world alight.
Diaz, watched from the stands by his younger brother Jesus, was in tears at the final whistle of Liverpool’s 3-2 Champions League semi-final second-leg win over Villarreal after coming off the bench at half-time to put in a man-of-the-match performance and secure a 5-2 aggregate victory on Tuesday evening.
Asked where he got his self-belief from, Diaz told UEFA’s YouTube channel: “From La Guajira. It comes from my roots. I always played football in my town, in my homeland.
“They are my characteristics, they have instilled in me several things that I have today and now I have grown much more. That’s my game.
“Each game is a revenge for always going out to look for more, I know what it costs and I have to take advantage of every moment, every minute I have.
“The rest is very important for what is to come.”
Diaz has played more matches (64) in 2021-22 for clubs and country than any other professional in world football, and could feature in a further six as Liverpool chase an unprecedented quadruple.
“When we reach an instance of these, like a final, what has already happened is erased,” he added.
“We know what a final is. In a final you forget fatigue, you play, you run and you fight.”
The South American had been on the club’s radar for a while, having left his homeland in 2019 to move to Portugal.
And when Tottenham made a move in January, after Everton had failed with a James Rodriguez swap-plus-cash offer in the summer, the Reds sprung into action and had the medical in South America and signing wrapped up within 48 hours.
His integration into what was already a high-performing and high-achieving team has been impressive, aided by the confidence with which he arrived and the support of Liverpool’s coaching staff.
“I’m very happy and glad what is happening, of course. I’m going to play in a Champions League final, it’s like I always dreamt,” he said after his second-half introduction in Spain helped changed the direction of the game.
“The most important thing was that I managed to help the team.
“In the second half we all did well, the players that came on helped as well and supported us in order to get the result.
“That was really important, so I’m content and happy with all that went on.”