Arne Slot could have superstar in the making now Liverpool has made obvious transfer choice

Feyenoord coach Arne Slot during the Toto KNVB cup semi-final match between Feyenoord and FC Groningen at Feyenoord Stadium de Kuip on February 29, 2024 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
-Credit: (Image: ANP via Getty Images)

It's a summer full of unknowns for Liverpool. Not only has Arne Slot taken charge, but the Reds are also operating with a new-look recruitment structure, put in place by the returning Michael Edwards.

The cliche that the new manager will look to 'put his stamp' on this Liverpool team is therefore of limited relevance. But with or without Slot, one transfer decision that could end up defining his reign has already been made.

The question of incoming business will be addressed in due course, with Richard Hughes now in place as sporting director. But it's a summer where potential outgoings are just as significant, with Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold all entering the final year of their respective deals.

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None are expected to leave this summer, and the club is likely to open talks with all three, with various degrees of complexity involved in each deal. But while Slot waits to find out whether he will be building around them for the long term, other players are also subject to transfer speculation.

There are no pressing contract worries when it comes to Darwin Nunez. But the potential record signing has seen his Liverpool future questioned all the same, after being relegated to the bench in Jurgen Klopp's final few weeks in charge.

But speaking on The Anfield Wrap podcast, James Pearce made it clear that Liverpool has made up its mind on Nunez. Despite the speculation, there is absolutely no appetite to cash in on the striker.

"A lot of noise toward the back end of last season about Darwin Nunez, but I’m led to believe that there’s absolutely no desire to be looking to move him on," Pearce said. "They believe Slot can work with him and help him fulfil his potential."

The accuracy of that belief could have a significant bearing on whether Slot succeeds or fails. Of course, Klopp managed to string together a successful final season without the Uruguayan ever truly catching fire, but he remains one of the players in the team who possesses real game-changing potential.

Liverpool cannot wait for the fabled 'explosion' forever, and therein lies the significant frustration with Nunez. But while it's almost becoming trite, it remains true to point out that he has the potential to be one of the very best in the league.

All of the building blocks of a superstar are already in place. Nunez is getting a massive volume of chances for himself through his movement, his pace and his physicality. Comparisons to Erling Haaland have done him no good, but for some context, the Liverpool striker has averaged more non-penalty expected goals and assists than his Manchester City counterpart over the last year.

Getting him to stick his chances away is in many ways not a coaching issue. Slot can try to work on his confidence, or make tactical innovations to try and engineer even better chances for Nunez, but ultimately he is having to cross his fingers that the striker finds his shooting boots.

Because fairly or not, it could define the narrative of the Slot tenure. Should Nunez finally come good on the kind of scoring form he showed at Benfica, or even just start converting at an average rate, the difference in outcome for Liverpool will be massive.

Ultimately, the new recruitment team will have been left with an obvious decision after looking at the data. The numbers can't guarantee that Nunez will succeed, but precious few alternatives would come with any more iron-clad assurances of goals.

But it will be the real goals, not the expected ones, that dictate the narrative around Slot. With Nunez now set to stay, the new Liverpool manager will be hoping against hope that he finds the kind of form that would justify his transfer fee.