Darwin Nunez is off the mark for Liverpool.
With Sadio Mane’s transfer to Bayern Munich breaking up the Reds’ renowned front three this summer, Jurgen Klopp looked to Nunez to give the team’s front line a new color.
With a price tag of £85 million, the Uruguayan international has joined forces with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota, and Luis Diaz, adding even more pressure.
Nunez under pressure
Sure, he might have lit up the world at Benfica last season with 34 goals in 41 games, but will he have what it takes to succeed in the Premier League, where so many strikers have failed before him?
When the 23-year-old first donned the fabled red jersey as part of the team’s pre-season preparations for the 2022–23 season, that was the question on everyone’s mind.
And it was soon clear that there was already a cross hair on his name given the excitement surrounding his arrival and Manchester City’s almost simultaneous purchase of Erling Haaland.
Nunez criticised by fans
Recordings of Nunez missing opportunities while practicing with Liverpool and “highlights” videos of him failing in his first few games made that abundantly evident.
You certainly got the feeling that the opposing team’s fans were baying for blood even though he hadn’t even attempted to kick a ball in a competitive match for Liverpool.
This leads us to Liverpool’s most recent pre-season game on Thursday against RB Leipzig, which undeniably signaled the arrival of their new center forward.
Nunez’s problems against Liverpool and Crystal Palace were swiftly forgotten as he scored twice in three exciting second-half minutes against the Champions League team at the Red Bull Arena.
Salah, who had already opened the scoring in the opening 45 minutes thanks to a Firmino assist as Liverpool’s new signing assumed responsibilities from 12 yards when Diaz was brought down by the goalkeeper.
Nunez’s ensuing penalty kick struck the back of the net despite the shot-stopper getting a hand on it, giving him his first goal while wearing Liverpool shirt.
But you counter that it’s simply a fine. Fear not, though, for only seconds after breaking his duck, Nunez went on to double his tally, which seemed to give him a huge boost in confidence.
Trent Alexander-Arnold put the Uruguayan through one-on-one with the goalkeeper, and the player displayed excellent poise in front of goal to reach the bottom corner.
Nunez’s three-minute brace turned into a 25-minute hat-trick, though, as he perfectly timed his run and movement in the penalty area and tapped in Harvey Elliott’s cross.
Oh, but that wasn’t the end either, as Nunez added a fourth(!!!) goal to cap off a genuinely amazing 45 minutes of work, if rather fortuitously, by curling the ball through the goalkeeper.
So, OK, add the numerous disclaimers about it only being pre-season—they’re all ultimately true—but you have to give Nunez credit for giving the supporters who already believed he was flopping the finger.
Nunez can only beat what is set in front of him, and he certainly gave RB Leipzig a taste of what he can do. He may still struggle at Anfield, win a statue outside the stadium, or do anything in between, but he can only beat what is set in front of him.
Take a bow, Darwin, take a bow.