It was a point of contention among supporters when Liverpool’s teamsheet was announced for their Champions League semi-final decider at Villarreal.
Jota struggled throughout an abysmal first half for the Reds, and it was no surprise to see him hooked at the break – though it was something of a surprise that only Diaz was brought on.
Klopp’s faith in the rest of his starting lineup eventually paid off as Liverpool fought back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 on the night, but it was the livewire substitute who truly inspired the comeback.
Fabinho reduced the deficit to 2-1, before Diaz headed past Geromino Rulli to level, with Mane then putting the gloss on the evening as the Reds earned a 5-2 aggregate victory.
In his post-match interview with BT Sport, Van Dijk was questioned on the impact of Diaz since his arrival in January.
“Incredible,” was Van Dijk’s assessment.
“The way he goes one vs. one, it doesn’t really matter who he’s facing, he’ll just go at you.
“Without any fear or anything, he just goes at you.
“And if he loses the ball, he gets the ball back as quickly as possible and goes again and goes again. That’s very difficult to defend.”
"Last year around this time I wasn't even close to playing and now I'm in two finals and a Carabao Cup behind my name." ?
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 3, 2022
Klopp again made five changes to his side for the trip to El Madrigal, with the manager carefully rotating his squad throughout the run-in as Liverpool chase three more trophies.
It means that in-form players such as Diaz are not guaranteed a starting spot, which Van Dijk believes keeps up the “momentum” that has led the Reds to another final.
“Now we have this momentum at the moment in the team, it’s obviously great,” he continued.
“And now we go to Paris.”