Liverpool has announced the signing of Uruguayan International Darwin Núñez. The attacker will join Juergen Klopp’s side from the Portuguese side Benfica for an initial fee of £64 million with the fee rising to around £100 million depending on future performance. This transfer represents a significant outlay for Liverpool and is the largest initial fee paid for any player since the signing of Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton for a fee of around £76 million. It is thought that Liverpool was happy to pay this fee as it looks like Sadio Mané may leave the club before the end of this transfer window.
Why Darwin Nunez?
Darwin Núñez is one of the most sought-after young strikers in European football today. This is largely based on his performances for Benfica last season where he bagged 34 goals and 4 assists in 41 games. The most notable of these goals came for Nunez in the champions league where he scored 6 in 10 games including goals against Liverpool and Bayern Munich.
With the departure of fan-favorite Divock Origi and potentially Sadio Mané, Liverpool doesn’t have a traditional striker in the squad at present and it will be hoped that this is a slot that Núñez can fill. In fact, Núñez might be better placed to fill in for Sadio Mané than most realize. While he is mostly used as a traditional striker, Núñez has shown himself to be a lethal goalscorer coming in off of the left-hand side. Núñez played as a left-winger on five occasions for Benfica last season finding the net an incredible 10 times. While it is not his favorite position, he clearly has the ability to contribute from that position in the absence of Mané. This versatility was undoubtedly key in Jürgen Klopp targeting the player as he likes his attackers to be competent in multiple positions across the forward line. Salah, Mané, Jota, Minamino, and Firmino are also versatile attacking players. Núñez thrives when he is given the ability to use his great physical attributes to bully or sprint beyond defenders. Most of his goals come from clever runs into the box where he can outpace defenders and use his lethal finishing ability. Being so physically gifted is what will separate him from Liverpool’s other more technically gifted attacking talent.
Tactically, Klopp will expect Núñez to press hard. This is something that will be new to the Uruguayan. Currently, he presses the opposition 15.24 times per 90 minutes played. Respectable numbers, but far behind both Jota and Firmino who both presses between 23-25 times per 90 minutes played. It is unfair to compare Nunez to the other Liverpool attackers as he is a very different player. That is especially true for Firmino and Jota as both are statistical unicorns that can be compared to very few players in world football. From a statistical point of view, his profile is much more similar to Saido Mané who presses 14.67 times per 90.
Doubts About Nunez
Like all big transfers, there is an element of doubt surrounding Núñez’s ability to live up to the price tag. This is especially true for a player like Núñez who doesn’t have an extensive record of great performances spanning multiple seasons, nor has he played in one of Europe’s top leagues. Contrast this with Erling Haaland who took the extra step of joining Borussia Dortmund and performing brilliantly in the German Bundesliga before moving on to a truly elite club. There will be more expected of Erling Haaland this season than Núñez but, Haaland has the pedigree to deal with those expectations.
One aspect of Núñez’s game that will require significant improvement is his passing ability. While Núñez tends to carry the ball into great positions, he also tends to give the ball away. His pass completion percentage is 54% which is remarkably low. For comparison, this would put the player dead last among outfield players in the English Premier League last season. It is unlikely that Liverpool’s team of player analysts would have recommended the club sign the player if they didn’t believe that this could be improved, but it’s certainly a talking point going into next season.
It could be argued that Liverpool signed Núñez earlier than they would have liked due to the interest shown in the player by rivals Manchester United. With Sadio Mané almost certain to join Bayern Munich, it would seem Liverpool was forced to act quickly to secure the services of a replacement. As much as these doubts certainly exist Jürgen Klopp has already shown he is aware of them and that he believes he can improve the player.
“He plays without fear, he’s powerful. I know he will excite our supporters. It’s important we all recognise we are getting a ‘work in progress’ with Darwin.”
Did Liverpool make the right decision in signing Darwin Núñez? Let us know what you think! If you enjoyed this content then follow me on Twitter @AzLynchy and also make sure to follow @FootballOTH for more football content!
Main Image Credits: Embed from Getty Images