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Darwin Nunez: What Uruguayan will bring to Liverpool

| 14.06.2022

Darwin Nunez signing: What will Benfica striker bring to Anfield?

Liverpool have signed Benfica striker Darwin Nunez for a potential club-record fee.

The 22-year-old Uruguayan has reportedly signed a six-year contract after the Reds paid an initial fee of £64million, with the deal subject to international clearance and a work permit.

His fee could rise as high as £85m, which would eclipse by £10m the sum Liverpool paid Southampton for centre-back Virgil Van Dijk in January 2018, but for that to happen the Uruguay international will have to meet every condition –
ranging from goalscoring targets to winning the Champions League – set out in the deal.

Liverpool expect the eventual cost to be at least £75m, providing he plays regularly as we take a closer look at the transfer and what the Darwin Nunez signing means.

Who is Darwin Nunez?

He was born in Artigas, right on the border with Brazil, one of the poorest parts of Uruguay and the city furthest away from the capital Montevideo, in June 1999. His father Bibiano was a construction worker, his mother Silvia collected and re-sold plastic bottles.

As a 13-year-old he joined Penarol in Montevideo, a seven-hour road trip away, and made his first-team debut as a substitute for former Liverpool forward Maxi Rodriguez in November 2017.

How has he ended up at Liverpool?

Nunez joined Spanish second division side Almeria for £3.4m in August 2019. After 16 goals in his first season Benfica swooped to sign him for £20m, although Almeria inserted a 20 per cent sell-on clause which is set to pay huge dividends now.

Troubled by a knee issue he scored only six goals in his maiden campaign in Portugal and missed the 2021 Copa America to have surgery to rectify the problem. He returned a different player with 26 goals in 24 league starts last season, plus six goals in six Champions League starts – including in each of their quarter-final legs against Liverpool.

So what is Jurgen Klopp getting?

With his 23rd birthday just a few days away Nunez still has some rough edges but Klopp and his coaching staff should be able to iron out those. He is a right-footed forward who can play up front on his own, with a partner or wide on the left, and is excellent in the air.

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While he may be an immediate replacement for Bayern Munich target Sadio Mane he is probably a longer-term successor to Roberto Firmino. What he does offer Liverpool is a more clinical option through the middle. Across Europe’s big five leagues and Portugal, only Robert Lewandowski (35), Kylian Mbappe (28), Karim Benzema (27) and Ciro Immobile (27) scored more league goals last season.

After Benfica’s draw at Anfield in April Klopp said of the player: “Physically strong, quick and calm with his finish when he finished the goal off. Good, really good. If he stays healthy, it’s a big career ahead of him.”

How will he fit in?

If he needs any encouragement the January signing of Luis Diaz from Porto should provide it. The Colombia international made an immediate impact and was a significant player in Liverpool’s run to three finals and a title race which went down to the final 10 minutes of the season.

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A key part of the Reds’ recruitment process is the work they do on the character of a player and Nunez appears to fit their criteria.

The Uruguayan’s ambition was aligned to providing for his family, promising to buy his mother a substantial house when he earned his first major contract. “When I was transferred to Almeria that’s what I did – I bought six hectares of land and gave it to her,” he said in an interview with UEFA Champions League Weekly in February.

What does his arrival mean for Liverpool?

Without laying it on too thick, Darwin’s signing is part of the team’s evolution.

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With Mane seemingly heading out this summer, Mohamed Salah currently only prepared to commit himself to the final year of his contract and Firmino, 31 in October, likely to play out his last 12 months, the forward line needs an injection of new blood.

Diaz, 25, provided the initial shot, the addition of Fulham’s 19-year-old Fabio Carvalho has boosted that and Nunez will complete the mid-to-long-term regeneration. Liverpool still also have Diogo Jota, who is also only 25.

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Author

Warren Barner