Darwin Nunez ‘allowed to leave’ by Liverpool after Luis Suarez-like season?
Darwin Nunez has played more Premier League football than all but seven Liverpool players this season and that makes him a bit-part boy who can demand a move…
“Absolutely (we saw what we wanted). It’s super important,” said Jurgen Klopp when asked about the performance of Darwin Nunez against Fulham on Wednesday night. “In the beginning, defending the centre against Fulham is really important because Palhinha is there. He’s their connector and gets on the ball. So we were a bit too early out there from Darwin. We tried to fix that but he wanted it. He was a racehorse, he went for everybody.”
So both Klopp and Nunez might have been slightly surprised to find this headline on MailOnline on Thursday morning:
‘Darwin Nunez must be a central figure at Liverpool or be allowed to leave… the £85m striker has one goal in his last 10, is yet to fully win Jurgen Klopp’s trust and the jury is out on whether he is the answer’
Oh. He’s played more Premier League football this season than everybody at Liverpool barring Alisson, Mo Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Andrew Robertson and Jordan Henderson. He’s hardly a peripheral figure. It’s hardly ‘allowed to leave’ territory. Unless you also think Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez should be ‘allowed to leave’ Man City.
And he’s not an £85m striker yet…he cost £64m.
But Joe Bernstein has a bee in his bonnet:
‘On the night Erling Haaland broke more records, Darwin Nunez’s run at Liverpool extended to only one goal in his last 10 matches.
‘Yet the Uruguayan still got a generous ovation for his contribution when substituted late on in a 1-0 win against Fulham. The remainder of this season has to be used by Jurgen Klopp to see if the 23-year-old is up to the task of being the club’s main centre-forward.’
Does it? Or will the remainder of the season be used to cement fifth place and put pressure on Manchester United for a Champions League spot?
‘It has to be remembered Nunez cost £30million more than City paid for Haaland last summer. The early signs were positive, Liverpool’s stand-out signing scored on his debut in the Community Shield against City when Haaland didn’t.’
It should also be remembered – but seems to have been forgotten – that Nunez actually cost an initial £64m. It also has to be remembered that Haaland had a release clause which meant that City bought him for about a third of his value but carry on…
‘Since then, it’s been a series of almosts, similar to Luis Suarez’s first season at Anfield when he kept on hitting the woodwork.’
Great example. Suarez literally scored 30 goals a season later.
‘Nunez has scored a respectable 15 goals in his debut season in England but doesn’t seem to have fully won Klopp’s trust, starting only 18 of the 34 Premier League games.’
It’s almost like the Uruguayan might be a long-term project. Klopp certainly has form in this department: Robertson started 22 games in his first season at Liverpool; Fabinho started 21; Diogo Jota started 12; Ibrahima Konate started 11.
But Bernstein is having none of it, with Nunez apparently owed a series of starts for reasons known only to Bernstein himself.
‘With four matches left this season and Klopp himself discounting a charge into the top four positions, it is time for Nunez to play every remaining game at centre-forward to boost his personal confidence and establish relationships with the rest of the team.
‘The perpetual rotation of Nunez from being a striker one week, wide player the next week and then on the bench does little to indicate whether he is the long-term answer.’
Who needs that indication? You? Why? As James Pearce notes in The Athletic: ‘Klopp and assistant Pep Lijnders have repeatedly urged him not to be so hard on himself, reassuring him they are happy with the progress he is making. They always viewed Nunez as a long-term project.’
‘Nunez is too expensive to a be a bit-part player. He either has to be a central figure or allowed to leave and continue his career elsewhere, and the money reinvested in someone who is a better fit.’
Hmmm. Feels like that’s Liverpool’s decision to make. And starting both last-16 Champions League clashes with Real Madrid would suggest there is some faith there.
‘Klopp needs more evidence before making his mind up which is why it’d be disappointing if Nunez was again left out against Brentford, even if Liverpool can call upon alternative attackers Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Salah and Firmino who leaves the club at the end of the season.’
But he’s not making his mind up this summer, Joe. That’s the point. Only you are trying to cast a 15-goal striker as a massive flop after one season.
‘Overall, a narrow win to cement fifth spot isn’t up on what Liverpool have achieved in previous seasons before Nunez arrived.’
It’s not – though they could end up with more points and almost certainly more goals than two seasons ago – but we don’t think that’s entirely his fault.
‘”We have stuff to improve on,” said Klopp about the team though he could have been talking about the club’s record signing as well. But to judge Nunez on one start when he’d been on the bench for the previous four is harsh.
‘He needs his manager to show a bit of faith so Liverpool can find out if Darwin Nunez deserves to be a stayer.’
Or – and this might blow your mind – Klopp might judge him on the hundreds of training sessions he has watched and ease him into the Liverpool side like, well, pretty much everybody not called Salah or Van Dijk.
Playing these mind games together…
Jurgen Klopp was also asked after that victory over Fulham whether it was realistic to target a top-four place and he said: “No. I don’t feel it like that but it means nothing. It’s about probabilities.
“If Newcastle and Manchester United win all their games, we have no chance. If Brighton win all their games, they are ahead of us. That’s the situation.
“We just have to win our games and see where it takes us. At the moment I’m happy with our direction. We just have to keep going and in the end we’ll look at the table and take what we can get.”
You see what he did there? No? Well let Lee Ryder of the Newcastle Chronicle tell you:
‘Joelinton has revealed Newcastle United’s dressing room mentality as he and his team-mates close in on a Champions League place.
‘The noise outside the dressing room is whirring around the club at the moment with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp desperately trying to crank up the mind games as his Kop side are mathematically still in the hunt for the top four. But Joelinton has made it clear that United’s aims for the run-in will render Klopp’s late season attempts redundant.’
Somebody is desperate.
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