A look into Darwin Nunez‘s statistics alongside these players goes some way to explaining why Liverpool’s transfer gurus were willing to break the club’s transfer record to get their man.
When Liverpool loosen their purse strings, they do so with a great deal of caution.
The very fact they were willing to put together a deal that is likely to make Nunez the most expensive player in the club’s history tells you everything you need to know about how highly they rate him.
When it became clear that Sadio Mane would be ending his six-year affiliation with Liverpool this summer, eyes turned to the player the Reds would choose as his replacement.
With Mane playing the majority of the second half of the season as the central player in Liverpool’s attack, many assumed a striker would be targeted. Those assumptions were correct.
In typical Liverpool fashion, within a week of the links to Nunez having gained any credibility, he was through the door at the AXA Training Centre.
“To play alongside these ‘monsters’ is going to be something really special for me, because as a kid you dream of going far." ? pic.twitter.com/ZVkmS7LGmt
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) June 14, 2022
In many ways, this was exactly the sort of transfer Liverpool have steered away from in recent years. A player being touted on the market for €100 million, numerous interested parties, a recent change in agent and a potential bidding war.
That didn’t put them off. Newly appointed sporting director Julian Ward ensured the Reds were positioned at the front of the queue for the Uruguayan’s signature. An £85m package was agreed, with Nunez penning a six-year contract.
We know that Ward, his predecessor Michael Edwards and the rest of the Reds’ transfer committee have used statistics and player data to great success in their excellent player recruitment strategy.
Numbers speak for themselves
Nunez’s numbers will have been put up against other possible targets, as well as Liverpool’s current forwards and similar players in the Premier League.
A dive into some of that data shows why they have deemed him the perfect addition to their attack at the perfect time.
This Is Anfield have put Nunez’s domestic numbers from last season up against Erling Haaland, Man City‘s much-coveted new striker, Son Heung-min, 2021/22 joint-Golden Boot winner with Mohamed Salah, as well as the Egyptian, Mane and Diogo Jota, the Liverpool forwards with the most appearances last season:
And it’s easy to see why Liverpool were prepared to go big for Nunez.
The comparisons to Man City‘s Erling Haaland are well underway, with the league’s two standout teams both announcing the signings of new star strikers within the space of 48 hours. Indeed, the race for the 2022/23 Premier League Golden Boot may well be the battle of the top knots!
Liverpool, like every other top team in Europe, will have liked what they saw from Haaland at Borussia Dortmund. A player who has been widely regarded as the game’s next best No. 9 for some time.
Unsurprisingly, they were priced out a deal for the Norwegian, with some reports claiming City’s deal could end up costing them around £300m when you factor in bonuses, agent fees and wages.
Interesting, then, that Nunez can boast a better goal conversion rate, a better shot success rate and more goals per 90 than Haaland, who played five league games fewer than the Reds’ new No. 27 last season.
The Uruguayan also outshines Son, a player who has been linked with the Reds in some quarters, in many aspects. Salah marks higher than Nunez for assists and expected goals, but that only makes the prospect of them combining in the same team all the more mouth-watering.
All signs point to the fact the Reds have acquired a clinical finisher. While Nunez and Mane are streets apart in terms of style, you would expect the ex-Benfica man will be able to replicate Mane’s numbers in front of goal and more.
Realistically, Luis Diaz was the more like-for-like replacement for Mane, and Liverpool’s coaching staff will be licking their lips at the prospect of fine-tuning the ex-Porto man’s game to make him more efficient in front of goal.
Nunez, in terms of the numbers he’ll be expected to bring to Liverpool’s attack, could be more of a long-term replacement for Salah, who is set to leave the club on a free transfer next summer as things stand. The fact Nunez can also operate wide in a front three will also have appealed to Klopp.
While it will be sad to see Mane, who will go down as a club great, leave for a new challenge this summer, nobody should be in any doubt that replacing him with a player like Nunez, who is eight years younger, is more astute business from Liverpool.
As Klopp’s first big-money signing, Mane has been at the heart of all of the success the club have had in recent years, but Liverpool are wise to not be offering him the reported £328,000 a week wages he’s reportedly set to earn at Bayern Munich.
Times a’ changin’ and there’s every chance Nunez will be leading the evolution of this hugely exciting Liverpool team.