Liverpool star’s history could be repeating itself - and his teammates know it
Liverpool are in for a real exciting season based on what we’ve seen already.
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If you were pushed to think of a word to describe Liverpool’s transfer history under Jurgen Klopp, ‘revolutionary’ would certainly be in contention. Of course, not every single signing of the last eight years has been a game-changer at Anfield but the German has brought in so many players who will go down as club icons when they eventually retire.
Liverpool fans have endured a lot of frustrating transfer windows over the years. Plenty of utterly catastrophic recruits have come and gone, often costing the club plenty of money and delivering next to nothing in return. We could sit here for a long time and list the signings who are still talked about to this day for all the wrong reasons, but there is an equally bulky folder to thumb through and relive the magnificent transfers over the years.
After inheriting a rusty squad from Brendan Rodgers back in 2015, Klopp has built a real fortress and thanks to signings like Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Alisson, Virgil van Dijk and plenty of others, Liverpool have won every trophy there is to win under his reign.
Of course, not every transfer window has been flawless — even Klopp has scouted out players who have failed to come good at Anfield. Naby Keïta is perhaps the biggest example of this. The Guinea international was on fire with former club RB Leipzig, but since moving to Merseyside his flashes of brilliance struggled to develop into full blown firework displays. Keïta also seriously struggled with injuries and left the club this summer for free, leaving behind a shadow of the legacy of others.
One Klopp signing who many feared would make less of a splash and more of a ripple, is is Darwin Núñez. But the pressure for him to perform was immense from the very start. As the Uruguay international posed with his new shirt, debates were already lighting up social media. ‘Who is the better signing, Darwin Núñez or Erling Haaland?’
The two forwards joined their respective Premier League clubs within days of each other last summer, both touted to set the English division alight. Sure enough, Haaland did exactly that, and then some — there aren’t really enough words to describe Manchester City’s new goal machine. But as Haaland just kept on scoring, Núñez was facing a lot of heat for not following at the same pace.
Had there not been the relentless comparison before either of the players had kicked a ball, Núñez’s return of 15 goals and four assists across all competitions would have been a more than respectable tally for a debut season. But when you directly compare it to Haaland’s 52 goals in 53 games — despite Núñez operating on the wing for a good chunk of the term — it’s obviously going to be outshone.
Last season was tricky for the whole Liverpool team as they hit an out-of-character dip in form and threw away their chances of qualifying for Champions League football. Klopp was deciding on his best option up front and Núñez was in competition with Cody Gakpo most of the time. However, the 24-year-old is eager to keep hold of a place in Liverpool’s starting lineup and he’s pulling out the performances to make sure that happens.
Núñez opened up his scoring portfolio this season against Newcastle, and what a statement performance it was. The Magpies had one foot through the door when Klopp deployed the Uruguayan deep into the second half and he popped up with two huge goals to turn the match on its head and snatch the win. Since then, he has started all but three Premier League fixtures and has tallied four goals and three assists in nine games so far.
The forward is currently on 12 goalscoring contributions in 14 matches across all competitions this campaign, forcing Klopp’s attention as he continues to pop up in the most important moments. Like any player, there is room for improvement and his finishing could be sharper, but if fans know anything, it’s that when Klopp starts a process, it’s one to be trusted.
Aged just 24, Núñez has still got bags of potential and the Premier League hasn’t yet seen it in its full glory. A similar narrative unfolded during his time at Benfica. The striker notched an impressive 14 goals and 12 assists during his maiden season but the beast within him was truly unleash during the following term. Núñez smashed home 26 league goals in 28 appearances and sprinkled in an extra four assists on top of that. His overall goal count for the season was 34 goals in 41 games.
Núñez is already showing signs of this process repeating itself and it seems his teammates are also already aware of this too. After their win over West Ham, summer signing Alexis Mac Allister said: “I think he’s getting better and better. I think we will see the best of him this year.”
Klopp also credited his striker for taking ‘massive steps in the last few weeks’ and described Núñez as ‘a threat’ in attack, which he certainly rapidly becoming. Based on this trajectory, it definitely looks like he is finally finding his groove at Liverpool and slotting in exactly where Klopp and the team need him.
Like any investment, instant results are special but often rare. So it’s not really beyond reason that Núñez needed a grace period before he really started to unleash his potential. His high-flying performances are coming thick and fast now, and we can only expect more as this season continues. After all, his history says so.