Chris Sutton believes Darwin Nunez would be the “perfect buy” for Liverpool as interest in the Uruguayan continues to gain considerable traction — and he’s identified the key trait that could give Jurgen Klopp’s side a new dimension.
Nunez, 22, has been heavily linked with a move to Anfield this summer in a deal that could potentially see the Reds surpass the club-record £75m they couriered to Southampton for Virgil van Dijk’s services in January 2018.
The sharp-shooting South American rose to meteoric prominence for Benfica in 2021/22, with only Robert Lewandowski (84.31) boasting a better minutes-per-goal ratio than him (84.39) across Europe’s top six leagues among players who featured at least 19 times.
That kind of prolific penalty-box devastation has naturally made Europe’s leading lights sit up and take notice, with Nunez now the subject of fervent interest from Liverpool, who certainly know a thing or two about world-class Uruguayan strikers.
The numbers are certainly impressive — 34 goals in 41 games across all competitions in 2021/22 for Benfica, including six in the Champions League — but Klopp will perhaps being looking beyond the data, having been on the receiving end of Nunez’s wrath in Europe.
The 22-year-old left his calling card both in Lisbon and Merseyside as Benfica and Liverpool tussled in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and while he produced two finishes with his right foot against the Reds, Sutton believes it’s his aerial ability that will make him a unique asset to Klopp.
In his column for the Daily Mail, Sutton wrote: “It’s his aerial ability that has impressed me.
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“At 6ft 2in and 80kg (12st 8lb) he’s a handful for any defender, and it was his headed goal against Ajax that sent Benfica through to the Champions League quarter-finals. That could be a useful addition for Liverpool up top.
“Nobody produced more crosses than Trent Alexander-Arnold in the Premier League last season, and Andy Robertson wasn’t far behind his pal.
“Against sides that defend deep — and plenty try that tactic when going to Anfield — you need someone challenging for those balls coming into the box.
“When Liverpool drew 1-1 with Tottenham last month, they crossed the ball 46 times — the most of any side in a single match during the 2021-22 campaign — and 46 times it wasn’t headed beyond Hugo Lloris.
“As a result, Liverpool dropped two points. How costly that proved. They finished one point behind Premier League champions Manchester City. They lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid as they were unable to beat Thibaut Courtois.”
He continued: “They won the FA Cup and Carabao Cup but didn’t score in either of those finals against Chelsea, instead relying on penalty shootouts to prevail.
“If Nunez can come in and give Liverpool that edge in those scenarios, then Jurgen Klopp will consider him worth his hefty cost.
“Klopp has already seen him score home and away against his team in the Champions League and he was a tormentor, gravitating towards the left wing where he could come in on to his right foot.
“At 22 years old, time is on his side, and the manager can mould him into the forward he wants, potentially positioning him in between Luis Diaz on the left and Mohamed Salah on the right.
“Manchester City are often criticised for being the money bags. They write the cheques that bring in first-class talent. Now Liverpool are set to spend big because they believe Nunez is the perfect buy.”