Impossible not to compare Darwin Nunez and Erling Haaland. Both strikers were signed in the same transfer window by England’s top two football clubs for huge fees. Manchester City have approached Haaland to give them something different while Nunez has been signed by Liverpool to evolve their forward line following the departure of Sadio Mane.
Initially, those comparisons didn’t do Nunez any favors. While Haaland has hit the ground running in the Premier
Nunez has not yet fully settled into his new Merseyside surroundings, but there are signs he is ready to reach new heights for Liverpool once the Premier League season resumes after the World Cup break. Nunez is starting to understand his new team and his new team is starting to understand him.
Seven goals in Nunez’s last 10 appearances for Liverpool before the World Cup break were a sign of a player growing in confidence. Klopp has experimented with different formations to get the best out of his side in a difficult start to the season and Nunez is now being used in the centre, alongside Mohamed Salah.
“Darwin came here after a short summer break, arriving in Asia, he didn’t say a word [of English] and then being young, Liverpool are a big club, it’s a big step for them and it was expensive and all that kind of stuff,” Klopp said. “Then all of a sudden, you play the first game and everybody looks at you. if the whole place is dark and there’s only one light and it’s the spotlight on you. You need to take care of it – we all expect it to be taken care of immediately, [to] get ready, but it’s not like that.
“For all these things, his numbers are incredible, to be absolutely honest. If you’re talking about xG, I’m pretty sure his xG is pretty high too. He had a few chances that he missed, but he also scored. He’s involved in a lot of final moments, a lot of things. The steps he’s taking are really big and that automatically means that he’s settling in more and more.”
Klopp has more than Nunez in mind. The German manager is apparently at the start of a squad rebuild which will require him to address issues in various areas of the pitch. Liverpool’s midfield in particular needs to be replenished with Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson over the age of 30.
However, Liverpool have already found a centre-forward to build on for years to come. Nunez isn’t the finished article yet, but he has all the natural and technical characteristics to become one of the best forwards of his generation. That’s why Liverpool paid £85m for him and there are signs their investment will go well.