Patson Daka is a player benefiting from the rise of Erling Haaland. Not only was he given his minutes in the Red Bull Salzburg XI, but there’s now no longer a dismissive attitude towards the Austrian Bundesliga, meaning Daka’s domestic record is taken seriously.
Prior to Haaland being, well, Haaland, the response would’ve been along the lines of ‘but it’s only Austria and he’s playing in the best side’.
There’s been a shift. If Haaland can transfer his utter dominance to one of Europe’s top five, why can’t others? According to reports, Red Bull Salzburg would be open to selling Daka for £20million this summer.
On paper, he sounds like the perfect signing.
Daka is a 22-year-old Liverpool fan with 27 goals to his name this season having appeared in 31 matches. The Reds could cover the majority of his fee by selling one of Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi or Takumi Minamino, even in the current climate.
He’s a goal threat with a point to prove. It should, in theory, be a no-brainer. Yet Daka would be one of the riskiest signings of the Jurgen Klopp era.
Liverpool’s success in the transfer market is built around their ability to sign players with scalable output. I covered this recently in work but the logic is simple; if a player is posting these numbers in an inferior team, you’d expect them to improve in a better team.
The perfect case studies for this are Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota. After moving to Anfield, their shots, touches in the box and expected goal (xG) averages all spiked on a per 90 basis. But that was only the case because all three weren’t at the top end of metrics prior to their arrivals, so there was room for improvement.
With Daka, it is different.
It’d be near impossible for him to improve his numbers. He’s taking 4.3 shots per 90 this season, has an xG average of 0.92 and he’s having close to eight touches in the opposition’s penalty area. For context, Salah is averaging 2.93 shots, his xG is 0.5 and he’s taking 5.25 touches in the box. Even during his record-breaking 2017/17 campaign, Liverpool’s No.11 didn’t match Daka’s averages.
The Reds aren’t going to build their attack around Daka. It just isn’t going to happen. Inevitably, his numbers would all take a hit. He’d be averaging fewer shots, you’d imagine his touches in the box would drop and as a result, he’d be less of a threat.
He’s then a completely different player to the one catching the eye in Austria. He’s basically an unknown.
There are other factors to consider, too.
His entire game for Red Bull Salzburg is largely built around scoring goals. He also benefits from playing in a fairly attacking league. Watch his goals back and many of them come from counter-attacking situations when the defence don’t outnumber the attack.
The same can’t be said for the Premier League. You rarely see those situations when playing for a top side. Teams sit deep and are determined not to lose. They aren’t looking to win.
Daka would see his numbers reduced. He’d also have to adapt to a different style. There are no guarantees when it comes to transfers, but those two factors should be huge red flags. To most clubs, a £20million gamble wouldn’t be that much of a risk, but Liverpool are frugal in the market. It makes no business sense to sign a player who, on the surface, would immediately see his output dwindle.