On the one hand, no matter how successful Haaland is, there is always a question mark over the transferability of performance to Austria at the highest level. Red Bull Salzburg are by far the most dominant team in the country, so it’s reasonable to expect at least some element of inflation when it comes to Daka’s goal numbers. This is reflected in the striker’s failure to score in the Champions League group stages, although his campaign was admittedly affected by injury.
Even Haaland, who has evidently enjoyed resounding success with Borussia Dortmund, has seen a slight drop in numbers since leaving Salzburg. In his last half-season in the Austrian Bundesliga, the Norwegian sensation averaged one goal every 44.5 minutes, a contribution that is hardly credible. Over his season and a half in Germany, that has come down to involvement every 67 minutes or so – still impressive, but proof that even the best forwards will suffer a drop in production when they move up from a smaller league. Additionally, the German top flight is friendlier to strikers than the Premier League (looking at you, Timo Werner), so if Daka were to move to Liverpool a bit more steep downturn would have to be expected.
Even setting aside the relative limits of Austria’s top flight, there are indications that Daka might not be the ideal man for Liverpool. The most worrying factor is the volume of chances on which the Zambian striker relies. He’s averaged 4.3 shots per 90 minutes this season, mostly from inside the box – Diogo Jota’s 3.72 shots per 90 is the closest comparable figure to Liverpool this season, most forwards averaging one less complete shot per game than Daka. Given that the Salzburg man would surely initially be billed as a team player, he just wouldn’t find himself in so many prime shooting situations if he moved to Anfield.
To continue the comparison with Jota, the Portuguese striker averaged just 2.72 shots for 90 in his last season with Wolves. Figures like this indicate room for growth within a better side, rather than a potential cap on production. It’s kind of a paradox, in the sense that Liverpool obviously don’t want to target players with bad numbers, but there is certainly a feeling that some stats may be too good to be true. In Daka’s case, his shooting volume is enough to at least raise the possibility that his excellent record is intrinsically linked to the prominent role he currently occupies for his club.
The forward also missed six games last season with a hamstring injury, although there is no indication as of yet that this is part of a recurring problem. Liverpool’s acquisition of Ibrahima Konate shows there is no intention to take a zero tolerance approach to injury records, even despite the horrors of the last campaign. Nonetheless, it is still a nagging concern to add to the list when it comes to Daka.
Of course, it’s perfectly possible that Daka will pull off his big blow and eliminate all of these concerns. There is no doubt that similar points were raised regarding Haaland, albeit to a lesser extent, before he rose to his current status as one of the most wanted players in the world. Even so, given the multiple risk factors at play, the signing of the new Salzburg leading man is less obvious than it first appears.