Liverpool midfielder Salif Diao has now effectively left the club for good. The Senegalese internatioal had been on a six-month loan at Stoke City which was due to end this month. After suprisingly impressing their supporters and staff the Potteries side have decided to extend the loan until the end of the season. Diao's lucrative Liverpool contract comes to and end this summer, meaning he'll not be playing for the Reds again.
It seems that Diao has found a level he can play at with Stoke, and their boss Tony Pulis was delighted to reveal the deal had gone ahead: "There's plenty of excitement around the place. He's coming until the end of the season and it's a smashing deal for the club. He will improve what we've got and that's what we're looking to do."
Diao stayed with Liverpool long after he knew his chances of playing for the club had passed because he knew the contract he was on would never be matched anywhere else. His contract was a throwback the days of Gérard Houllier signing players on very long-term lucrative deals before it was known just how good they might turn out to be for the club. Lessons have been learned, because Lucas Neill was initially offered a smaller amount which would have risen had he managed to prove himself a good buy. Instead he chose to jump straight into a deal with third-from-bottom West Ham for twice the money immediately. The Australian mercenary has since been trying to deny that rather than money it was the lure of helping West Ham fight off relegation that turned his head away from the chance to play against Barcelona in the Champions league for Liverpool. As well as being involved in that relegation dogfight, he also claims that Rafa Benítez's decision not to speak to him personally played a part in his choice.
Neill said: "I did not get the chance to speak to the people who really matter at Liverpool. It would have been nice to have heard what the manager of Liverpool thought about me and the deal, but it did not happen. Overall I was getting a cold feeling from Liverpool and a volcanic heat from West Ham, so that was why I chose them. It told me that they were desperate for me to come here and play, which is what every player wants. Nobody wants to go to a big team and then just sit in the stands."
In fact if Neill had signed last week when he was in a position to do so, he'd almost certainly have been handed a start against Chelsea. If he'd been involved in Rafa's first league win over the London side he'd then have been in with a great chance of becoming first-choice left-back.
If he doesn't manage to help West Ham avoid the drop he can leave the Hammers there and then, but he says that this was the club's decision, not his: "It has been documented that there is a clause in the contract which allows me to leave – but the club explained that it was put in as much for them as it was for me. West Ham have a job to do and, God forbid if the worst happens, they need the option of balancing the books and letting players leave. I am probably not the only player in that position at the club."
The reaction amongst many Reds at the news Neill wasn't joining was of relief. His past hasn't been forgotten, breaking Jamie Carragher's leg in particular. Perhaps the feedback got through to him, because he would have needed to put in some very good performances from the start to impress the Liverpool fans and help them to forget his past.
* Good luck to Stephen Warnock who got to start a new stage in his career with Blackburn earlier this week.