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Liverpool - Football: What will Nunez bring to the Premier League?

15 June 2022 13:20:57 EST
Jurgen Klopp could have something special in Darwin Nunez

Darwin Nunez could eventually become Liverpool's record signing at £85million if various add-ons are met in the huge deal the Reds have done with Benfica.

As a result, much will be expected of the Uruguayan frontman at Anfield and all the signs are that the 22-year-old will be able to live up the hype and thrive in the Premier League, which Liverpool are 5.00 to win in 2022/23.

Champions League audition

Before Nunez starred for the Portuguese giants against Jurgen Klopp's side in the Champions League quarter-final last season, there was tentative speculation that this was a player that could end up on Merseyside. His performances in both legs - when he scored in a home 3-1 defeat and then in the thrilling 3-3 Anfield draw in the return game - are believed to have persuaded Klopp and new sporting director Julian Ward that he was a forward worth seriously pursuing.

Then, when Sadio Mane informed the club he was keen to move on for a new challenge this summer, Nunez quickly became Liverpool's top transfer target.

At just 22, the Reds are getting a player eight years the junior of the Bayern Munich-coveted Mane and it means that when the Senegalese does depart, Klopp has a younger replacement already on board.

Mane has operated down the left in Liverpool's front three formation for much of his six-year spell at the club but last season he excelled more often than not when lining up centrally, usually with Diogo Jota or Luis Diaz on the left-hand side and then Mohamed Salah down the right.

So the Reds, 6.00 to win the 2022/23 Champions League, were looking for someone to slot into that central position and that's where Nunez has shone for Benfica in recent years.

Benfica improvement

After hitting 14 goals in all competitions in the 2020/21 campaign, Nunez took his game to a new level last term when he became the stand-out player in the Portuguese top flight.

The forward lashed in 26 league goals from just 28 appearances and also struck six times in the Champions League. He's weighed in with 14 assists in the league in the past two years as well to underline his creative ability and has sometimes featured down the left, with such versatility another asset Klopp will be keen to utilise at times as he interchanges his front line.

The Portuguese league is not regarded as being in the same class as the Premier League and is generally viewed as being inferior from the traditional top five domestic European divisions in England, Italy, Germany, Spain and France.

That has led to suggestions Nunez, 2.25 to score between 16 and 20 Premier League goals in 2022/23, may need time to adapt to his new surroundings and the tougher, faster and more physical nature of the game over here.

However, there were similar fears over Luis Diaz when he joined Liverpool from Porto in January but he made a mockery of those claims and proved with a positive, hard-working approach that adjusting to the demands of the Premier League can be a smooth transition.

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Klopp delighted with capture

With the amount of money splashed out on him - Nunez is joining for an initial £64million - it's likely he will be thrust into the starting line-up straight away but if he doesn't hit the ground running then Klopp still has Jota and Roberto Firmino as other central options.

As was the case last season with four trophies to compete for, the German coach will rotate his squad on a regular basis and knows he's not signing the finished article.

Shortly after the deal was announced, the Reds boss, in an interview with the club's media, listed Nunez's important attributes, describing him as "powerful, aggressive, energetic and dynamic" but he also pointed out he was a "work in progress". It's clear the boss is looking forward to mentoring the new signing and improving him even further.

Suarez seal of approval

There was reported late interest in Nunez from Manchester United but once he knew Liverpool wanted him he had his heart set on a switch to Merseyside to work under Klopp. He follows in the footsteps of fellow countryman Luis Suarez, who joined the Reds from Ajax in 2011 and went on to score 82 goals in 133 appearances, spearheading a title bid in 2013/14 with a series of superb individual displays. Suarez knows what it takes to shine in England and is a big fan of his international colleague.

When asked about Nunez, who is 15.00 to emulate his compatriot by finishing the season as the Premier League's leading goalscorer, and the possibility of him being a star of the future, the Atletico Madrid man replied in glowing terms.

He said: "I have 15 years of international experience, so I know a thing or two about forwards. And I told them, 'pay attention to this one, he's very good, he has very interesting things'."

Such a recommendation will be music to the ears of Liverpool fans who hope Nunez can have the same sort of impact at Anfield as Suarez did.

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