Darwin Nunez is shaping up to be at the centre of the latest Premier League transfer saga, with Liverpool and Manchester United going head-to-head for his signature. Tottenham and Newcastle United have been credited with an interest, but it will be one of the long-term Northern rivals that capture the Uruguayan international. The latest news suggests that it is Jurgen Klopp’s side that leads the race, with the Guardian reporting that the Reds are prepared to pay a club record fee to sign the attacker.
It has long been reported that Nunez was set for the Premier League this summer, with Manchester United seen to be the most likely destination. However, the likely departure of Sadio Mane has seen Liverpool quickly move to the front of the queue. United fans will be frustrated at the laboured approach of the club, as they have had time to get a deal in place for their main attacking target. However, their lack of urgency is likely to see them miss out.
For those that haven’t seen Nunez play, it is clear to see why clubs are very interested in him. Outside of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, many consider him to be the best young talent in Europe. In Liga NOS this season, he contributed 26 goals and four assists in under 2000 minutes, which is a remarkable strike rate. He averaged a goal every 76.5 minutes.
Although it will be difficult for him to maintain that strike rate in a stronger competition, it underlines how clinical he is in front of goal. For those worried about the strength of the Portuguese league, the success of Luis Diaz at Liverpool suggests that players can make the transition. Nunez’s performances in the Champions League shows that he can influence games at the highest level.
The 22-year-old scored six times in ten Champions League appearances with a goal every 102.3 minutes. Nunez played in both legs against Liverpool in the quarter finals, scoring home and away. This will have impressed those at Anfield. If there were any doubts about him, Nunez would have put an end to those during the tie. It was only Liverpool’s impressive defensive line that prevented him from scoring more.
Nunez is a prolific shooter, which is important. In the league, he averaged 3.87 shots per ninety minutes, with 2 finding the target. He is comfortable when carrying the ball and has a work rate that should see him settle in to Liverpool’s pressing style. The raw physical attributes he possesses suggest he will be a success in England.
Despite his excellent season, there is still a rawness to Nunez’s game. He needs to improve on the ball, as he can gift possession away. In the league, his pass completion was 67.1%. This fell in the Champions League to 56.5. If he joins Liverpool, he will need to become better at retaining the ball. Also, he is a player that drifts offside a lot. This is less likely to be an issue at Liverpool, as teams often set up in a deep block.
Liverpool were never likely to sign Haaland or Mbappe, despite being linked to both. Nunez represents the top of the market that the club likes to operate in. If they do break their transfer record for him, it will be a gamble, but an extremely exciting one.
It will be an end of an era if Mane does leave, but Nunez has the potential to be even better.