Yesterday it was reported that Liverpool had agreed personal terms with Darwin Nunez.
The Reds are close to signing the Benfica forward for a rumoured deal worth £85million.
With Sadio Mane and Takumi Minamino expected to leave Anfield this summer, it’s natural Jurgen Klopp would want to bolster his forward line as he looks ahead to another highly-competitive tussle with Man City for domestic trophies.
So what will Nunez bring to Liverpool if the deal goes through? And more importantly, what can Dream Team gaffers expect from him?
Unless you’re a proper badger for the Portuguese Primeira Liga, it’s likely the only sightings you’ve seen of the 22-year-old so far have come in a Champions League setting.
Most prominently, he scored against Liverpool in both legs of Benfica’s Champions League quarter-final that ended to 6-4 to the Merseyside club on aggregate.
Speaking between legs, Klopp said of Nunez: “Extremely good looking boy, huh? And a decent player as well. Really good. I knew before, of course, but he played pretty much in front of me with his tough battles with Ibrahima Konate.
“He was physically strong, quick, was calm around his finish. I always say in these situations if he is healthy, it’s a big career ahead of him.”
Nunez scored six goals in 614 minutes of Champions League action in 2021/22, a strong indication that he’s not just a flat track bully – if you consider Portugal a flat track.
He scored 26 goals in 28 league appearances (four coming as a substitute) this season at a rate of one every 76.5 minutes – spicy.
From a positional perspective, the Uruguyan is seemingly most comfortable playing as a centre-forward.
A quick glance at his YouTube montages reveals he scores a lot of typical poacher goals, close-range tap-ins between the width of the posts.
He can expect a similar supply playing for a dominant Liverpool side with Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold providing the crosses and cutbacks – the full-back pairing are two of the most prolific assist-providers the Premier League has to offer in recent years.
At 6ft 2in tall, Nunez also scores plenty of headers.
This season just passed, Diogo Jota converted more than his fair share of headers and the Portugal international is considerably smaller than his soon-to-be team-mate.
Don’t be fooled into thinking Nunez is a stiff target man – he’s much more dynamic than that and has a sharp turn of pace.
He also likes to dribble, has excellent close control, and like former Uruguayan Anfield favourite Luis Suarez, he ‘has that dawg in him’ to borrow a phrase from Football Twitter.
Because of his technical proficiency and athleticism, Nunez can play as a wide forward or as a second striker as well as a natural No9.
In terms of criticisms, he is extremely right-footed – left-footed goals were few and far between at Benfica – but he’s got time to develop that aspect of his game.
Perhaps most crucially, his pressing numbers are virtually non-existent, which jars with the idealistic view of a perfect Klopp striker.
Roberto Firmino led the line for Liverpool for years despite not being the most prolific scorer partly because he was statistically one of the best pressers in his position in Europe, as well as his neat link-up play – two aspects Nunez will look to develop in the coming years.
And of course there is the usual question of how well he will adapt to a new country and a higher standard of football.
Nunez may take heart from Luis Diaz’s recent transition from Portugal to Merseyside, which occurred with almost no signs of friction at all.
Liverpool averaged a shade under 2.5 goals per game in the Premier League this season so Nunez will be joining a free-scoring side who will dominant the majority of their fixtures.
He will surely relish the prospect of being the focal point of the Alexander-Arnold-Robertson-Diaz-Salah supply line.
It’s too early to speculate about a Dream Team starting price but we feel comfortable saying he will be categorised as a forward.
His attributes, historical record and the calibre of the club he’s joining all mean his potential to provide top-tier returns is considerable.