Darwin Nunez – Uruguay star arrives at Anfield and fits Liverpool’s vision of the future

Photo Credit: AP

Uruguay international Darwin Nunez has signed on the dotted line for Premier League side Liverpool. It is one of the summer’s first big major pieces of transfer business.

The forward moved from Portuguese side Benfica shortly after the summer transfer window opened. With all the fees and add-ons included in the deal, Nunez could become the record signing for Liverpool.

The deal for one of Europe’s best youngster

With Erling Braut Haaland having completed his big summer move to Manchester City, Liverpool knew that they had to act. The Reds missed out on the 2021/22 Premier League by a single point to rivals City.

With the prolific Haaland going to the Etihad to join the English champions, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp needed to grow his attack. Especially in what could be a summer of change at Anfield.

The Reds captured the Uruguay striker for an initial £64m but with performance bonus and add-ons, that could reach around £75 for Nunez at the minimum.

The previous club transfer record for Liverpool was £75 that they shelled out for Virgil van Dijk in 2018.

Have Liverpool got themselves a good deal?

Liverpool fend off rivals for Nunez

With a strong 2021/22 season under his belt for Benfica, there were plenty of suitors around trying to clamour for the signature of Nunez. Among them was another of Liverpool’s big rivals Man Utd, along with Newcastle and Paris St Germain.

The list of clubs that wanted him went on, and some of it may well have been nothing but speculation of course. But it is a nod towards how highly coveted the youngster is.

Former Liverpool and Barcelona forward Luis Suarez had been singing the praises of the youngster. During Suarez’s time at the Nou Camp, he was letting the club know how good this young compatriot of his was. Barcelona couldn’t make the financial move at the time to get him.

Now with this latest football news dropping, Liverpool fans will be hoping that he lives up to the hype.

The early career of Darwin Nunez

Nunez’s first club was Peñarol when he joined their youth team in his home country of Uruguay as a 14-year-old. It wasn’t a long stay there initially. But the following year he rejoined them and would stay with Peñarol until 2019, making 14 appearances.

The first small breakthrough that Nunez got was his Primera Division debut with Peñarol in November 2017 as he was sent on as a substitute. Nunez’s first professional goal came almost a year after that debut.

In 2019 Nunez moved to America in the Spanish Segunda Division. That was a big contract deal for the youngster as he put pen to paper for five years. His stay in Spain however would last only one season.

After finishing the season as the fourth-highest scorer in the division, it put bigger clubs on the alert. One of those was Portuguese giants Benfica.

Nunez’s big breakthrough

Another five-year contract offer then came the way of Nunez, as he signed up with Benfica, who were happy to shell out a club record for the forward.

Nunez immediately adapted to his new surroundings, making an impressive start for his new club. In his first four league matches in the Portuguese top-flight, Nunez made five assists.

The season however petered out quickly for him because of health and injury problems and it looked as if the bubble may have burst very quickly.

The 2021/22 season didn’t get off to the start for Nunez either as he missed the early stages after recovery from knee surgery.

But it didn’t take him long to get up and running however in the new Primeira Liga season, and Nunez also got off to a flying start in the UEFA Champions League, netting a brace against Barcelona in the group stage.

That was a key moment in the career of Nunez. It was a massive performance that made a lot of elite clubs in Europe sit up and really take notice of this young talent.

An even bigger moment was a goal in each leg of Benfica’s Champions League quarter-final tie against Liverpool.

Reds manager Jurgen Klopp got to see first-hand what the youngster was capable of.

Career statistics and landmarks with Benfica

There were some tremendous moments created by Nunez at Benfica, particularly in that 2021/22 season which he started a little later than most.

The goals started flying around from him, Nunez netting back-to-back hat tricks and in his 20th appearance for the club, he was remarkably averaging a goal per game.

In Benfica’s 2021/22 UEFA Champions League campaign, which was ended by Liverpool in the quarter finals, Nunez tallied six goals.

That was a new club record, the youngster becoming Benfica’s all-time leading goalscorer in the competition.

Nunez left Benfica with a total of 34 goals from 41 appearances for them. It was a total of 26 goals in 28 appearances in the Portuguese top-flight that he got.

It is little wonder that clubs were hunting for his signature. 92% of the goals that Nunez scored for Benfica were from inside the box.

A big international career ahead?

Darwin Nunez made his debut for Uruguay’s senior team in October 2019. That was in a friendly fixture against Peru which ended in a draw.

Nunez had been sent on as a sub in the 75th minute and within five minutes he had found the back of the net. He was selected for Uruguay’s 2021 Copa America squad but missed the entire tournament through injury.

But 2022 will see him step on the elite stage of the FIFA World Cup with Uruguay. La Celeste finished third in the notoriously difficult CONMEBOL qualification group, behind Brazil and Argentina.

Darwin Nunez has obviously drawn companions to Uruguay’s legend Edinson Cavani, aka El Matador. That’s some big boots to fill but the two will be excitingly pairing up together at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Where does Nunez fit at Anfield?

It is perhaps easy to forget that Darwin Nunez only turns 23 years old in late June 2022. Liverpool have taken a gamble on him being able to step up in grade and permanently deliver.

The performances that he made in the UEFA Champions League will no doubt have helped him secure a dream move.

But where does Darwin Nunez fit in at Anfield? Liverpool are already regarded as being one of the best teams in the world at the moment.

Liverpool have made it to three of the last five UEFA Champions League finals but brought home the trophy on just one of those occasions.

In the Premier League, their only title in the competition came in the 2019/20 season, all while watching Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City win four of the last five.

So as thrilling and dynamic as Liverpool are, there is room for improvement in the team and Nunez brings something different to the table.

A new Liverpool front line?

Nunez is more of a traditional number 9, something that Liverpool have not really had for a long time.

He is a tall, rangy operator, making him more of a target man to fire long balls into. But Nunez does also operate well in attacking space from both in the middle of the park and out wide.

As his stats at Benfica highlight, he is also a master predator of getting into the box and finishing chances.

Liverpool head coach Jurgen Klopp recognises that Nunez is far from a complete player and that he is more of a work in progress at the moment.

The good thing for Klopp however, is that Nunez has a versatile player, one that can grow and be moulded to it into the plans perfectly.

Is there a rush for Darwin Nunez to start strongly at Liverpool?

But there may be increased pressure on Nunez to find a role and settle into it quickly at Liverpool because of other factors.

Liverpool’s style and success under Klopp has relied on the attacking trio of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Sadio Mane has hinted that he would be prepared to leave the club, with Bayern Munich knocking on the door for the signature of the Senegalese star. The sale could help fund the purchase of Nunez of course.

Mo Salah is in the last year of his Liverpool contract now. He has stated that he will definitely be at the club for the 2022/23 season, but then what?

Salah and the club have not come to terms over a new contract and wages, and next summer the Reds risk him walking out on them.

Roberto Firmino is in the same boat as Salah, as he is also now in his final year with Liverpool.

Nunez the future?

So whether it’s this summer or next that Liverpool’s current powerful frontline falls apart, or next, it is going to happen.

Clearly the signature of Nunez, a promising youngster who can be shaped into Jurgen Klopp’s plans, highlights the transition that the club is making.

That’s also part of the reason they shelled out in January for Colombia winger Luis Diaz from FC Porto, who immediately settled into Liverpool’s attacking line-up. They may have a new, younger, more dynamic front line waiting in the wings at Anfield.