Liverpool have outdone a host of powerhouse clubs with the signing of Benfica striker Darwin Nunez, but why is the striker in demand?
The Uruguayan international scored 34 goals for Benfica last season in all competitions, including goals in both games of the club’s Champions League quarter-final loss to Liverpool in April.
Liverpool completed a deal worth up to €100m (£85m) for Nunez on Tuesday, with Jurgen Klopp’s side paying an initial €75m (£64m), with add-ons amounting to £25m. millions of euros.
The Benfica striker Núñez was Liverpool’s No. 1 transfer target this summer, with questions surrounding the future of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
A whole Klopp of praise
Jurgen Klopp praised Nunez after facing the 22-year-old in two Champions League ties in April. “A handsome boy, huh? And a decent player too!” the Liverpool manager joked.
“Very good, very good. He knew that before, of course, but he played quite a lot in front of me with his tough battles with Ibrahima Konate.”
‘He was physically strong, fast, he was calm in his goal. Good very good. I always say in these situations, if he’s healthy, he’s got a great career ahead of him.”
So what’s the fuss?
Nunez led the way in goals and conversion rate for players who took 20 or more shots in the Primeira Liga last season. In 2020/21, the Uruguayan international ranked second in assists, while in 2019/20 he finished fourth in goals with Almería in the Spanish Segunda.
The radar below compares his strengths with those of other strikers in Europe’s top leagues and reveals the extent of his qualities, ranking in the top five per cent for goals, headed goals, shots on goal, great chances created, dribbles attempted. and touches in the opposite area. .
The goals flowed last season and the numbers are more than impressive: 26 goals in just 1986 minutes equates to a ratio of more than one goal per game. He shot 85 shots on goal and that also translates to a league-high 30.6 percent conversion rate.
Núñez also offers longevity at just 22 years old. When compared to all players under the age of 22 in the Primeira Liga and Europe’s top five leagues last season, the Uruguayan international leads all players in goals and shots on goal per 90 minutes, beating even the new striker from the Manchester City, Erling Haland.
a closer look
Nunez also provides versatility in abundance, usually starting on the left flank or up for Benfica last season, a positional fluidity identical to that of Mane and Diogo Jota at Liverpool.
His adaptable and unconventional style would certainly fit in with Klopp’s philosophy at Liverpool and the visualizations below reveal how Nunez also drops back frequently and can mix with players all over the pitch when taking on different roles.
In fact, the Liverpool manager experienced this first-hand when he took on Núñez at Anfield. The heat maps below show how the Núñezes changed roles in the second half, moving from patrolling an area from the center right to the left flank.
The tactile map below highlights different attacking attributes by color in their Champions League campaign last term and provides further evidence of their ability to drive their team up the pitch from deep and their balanced effectiveness in the final third. , while shooting a substantial number of crosses from wider. angles
In terms of goal attempts, Nunez is not shy about shooting from distance, but he has the ability to find the target and the back of the net from the central left area, an area that Mane dominates at Liverpool today. setting.
As the graph above indicates, Nunez actually scored four secondary assists during his European campaign last season, but the visualization to the right below shows passes that lead directly to a shot and suggests that he normally takes short passes inside the opponent’s box, but you can also find equipment. colleagues from outside the area.
Other areas of your game
That effort is best visualized by the passing map below, which reveals a series of long, ambitious passes that often go awry but also occasionally break defensive lines. The high frequency of long passes contributes to below-average accuracy, but their successful online distribution in central areas would offer Klopp another dynamic against low-blocking opposition.
Diaz came to Liverpool from Portugal’s top flight with a reputation for pressing from the front and is still ranked 27th in the division for possession gained in the final third last season, despite leaving the club in January.
Nunez is almost half as effective as the Colombia striker in that area, which, perhaps, highlights a potential area for improvement if he were to sign for Liverpool, given Klopp’s high pressure and intense style of play.
The view from Portugal: how good is Darwin Núñez?
Portuguese football expert Pedro Sepúlveda speaking on Sky Sports News:
“Darwin Nunez was one of the best players this season in the Portuguese league by far. The other was Luis Diaz, who moved to Liverpool in January and that made Nunez the absolute best player.
“Benfica finished the season in third place and did not achieve a direct place in the Champions League, but in 41 games, Núñez scored 34 goals and registered four assists, so we are talking about one of the best strikers.
“He’s a ‘modern football striker’, like Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, strikers who don’t just focus on scoring goals. They focus on playing for the team and making the whole team play well. That’s why we’re talking about €100 meters
“Núñez’s biggest flaw -or the least good point- is his psychological game. In the 2020/21 season he wasn’t scoring many goals. He played 44 games and only scored 14. He was criticized a bit by the fans, and the first thing that What he did was suspend his social media, block people and not read comments. This shows that he doesn’t deal well with criticism when things start to go wrong. And in England, price is the first thing people will talk about when they’re not start scoring goals.
“When you talk about a player like Núñez, you think of a typical 9 who plays inside the penalty area. But he can easily play outside to open up space for other players in central areas if teams need him. He is a very good offer from Liverpool, who already used the Portuguese league with Luis Diaz in a massive transfer that the winger fully deserved.
“In Jurgen Klopp’s hands, Darwin may be one of the best strikers in the world. Today, he’s not one of the best strikers because he doesn’t play in the top five leagues. We have to see how he develops in the Premier League.” , which is one of the best leagues in the world”.
The creation of Darwin Nunez
Meet Darwin Núñez, the Uruguayan striker set for a big move from Benfica, and his former managers are backing him to star in the Premier League.
Sky Sports writer Adam Bate speaks to those who have followed his journey from the beginning to find out more.
What positions is Liverpool aiming for this summer?
Sky Sports News reporter Vinny O’Connor:
Liverpool will seek to strengthen their lead this season. The fact that they even spoke to Kylian Mbappe shows how determined they are to add more quality upstairs.
It makes sense with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino entering the last year of their contracts, while the possible departure of Sadio Mane, who also has one year left on his contract, and Divock Origi who has already decided to leave, makes the reinforcements in that area is a priority. If Mane does leave, Liverpool will only be looking to do business for a fee above the €30m that has been listed and would want a replacement sorted out before allowing him to leave.
With Fabio Carvalho officially starting his career at Liverpool on July 1, any further midfield turnover could hinge on the futures of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino. Oxlade Chamberlain made 29 appearances in a 63-game season and has not played since the FA Cup win over Forest in March, while Minamino only made 24 appearances and both could seek more regular first-team opportunities. Oxlade Chamberlain is another player who only has one year left on his contract.
Strengthening the back line doesn’t seem to be a priority, as Ibrahima Konate offers another option to Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk, while Joe Gomez can cover right back and centre-back.
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