By Carl Markham, PA
Liverpool are close to announcing the potential club-record transfer of Benfica striker Darwin Nunez.
The 22-year-old, who has already agreed personal terms on a six-year contract, is likely to join this week for an initial fee of £64million, with a possible £12.8m payable in appearance-related add-ons and £8.5m depending on team success.
If all conditions are met the total fee for the Uruguay international would be just over £85m and would therefore eclipse the £75m Liverpool paid Southampton for Virgil Van Dijk in January 2018.
Here the PA news agency takes a closer look at the transfer and what it means.
Who is Darwin Nunez?
He was born in Artigas, right on the border with Brazil, one of the poorest parts of Uruguay and the city furthest away from the capital Montevideo, in June 1999. His father Bibiano was a construction worker, his mother Silvia collected and re-sold plastic bottles. As a 13-year-old he joined Penarol in Montevideo, a seven-hour road trip away, and made his first-team debut as a substitute for former Liverpool forward Maxi Rodriguez in November 2017.
How has he ended up at Liverpool?
Welcome Darwin Nuñez ! 🔴⚪🔴 #UDAlmeria pic.twitter.com/RIsCSs4df6
— UD Almería (@UDAlmeria_Eng) August 29, 2019
Nunez joined Spanish second division side Almeria for £3.4m in August 2019. After 16 goals in his first season Benfica swooped to sign him for £20m, although Almeria inserted a 20 per cent sell-on clause which is set to pay huge dividends now.
Troubled by a knee issue he scored only six goals in his maiden campaign in Portugal and missed the 2021 Copa America to have surgery to rectify the problem. He returned a different player with 26 goals in 24 league starts last season, plus six goals in six Champions League starts – including in each of their quarter-final legs against Liverpool.
So what is Jurgen Klopp getting?
🇺🇾 This is what Darwin Núñez is all about...
Outstanding at Anfield 🔥#UCL pic.twitter.com/ewUdrU2SiM
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) April 22, 2022
With his 23rd birthday just a few days away Nunez still has some rough edges but Klopp and his coaching staff should be able to iron out those. He is a right-footed forward who can play up front on his own, with a partner or wide on the left, and is excellent in the air.
While he may be an immediate replacement for Bayern Munich target Sadio Mane he is probably a longer-term successor to Roberto Firmino. What he does offer Liverpool is a more clinical option through the middle. Across Europe’s big five leagues and Portugal, only Robert Lewandowski (35), Kylian Mbappe (28), Karim Benzema (27) and Ciro Immobile (27) scored more league goals last season.
After Benfica’s draw at Anfield in April Klopp said of the player: “Physically strong, quick, and calm with his finish when he finished the goal off. Good, really good. If he stays healthy, it’s a big career ahead of him”.
How will he fit in?
If he needs any encouragement the January signing of Luis Diaz from Porto should provide it. The Colombia international made an immediate impact and was a significant player in Liverpool’s run to three finals and a title race which went down to the final 10 minutes of the season.
A key part of the Reds’ recruitment process is the work they do on the character of a player and Nunez appears to fit their criteria. The Uruguayan’s ambition was aligned to providing for his family, promising to buy his mother a substantial house when he earned his first major contract. “When I was transferred to Almeria that’s what I did – I bought six hectares of land and gave it to her,” he said in an interview with UEFA Champions League Weekly in February.
What does his arrival mean for Liverpool?
Without laying it on too thick Darwin’s signing is part of the team’s evolution.
With Mane seemingly heading out this summer, Mohamed Salah currently only prepared to commit himself to the final year of his contract and Firmino, 31 in October, likely to play out his last 12 months, the forward line needs an injection of new blood.
Diaz, 25, provided the initial shot, the addition of Fulham’s 19-year-old Fabio Carvalho has boosted that and Nunez will complete the mid-to-long-term regeneration. Liverpool still also have Diogo Jota, who is also only 25.