Darwin Nunez has plenty of goals for his showreel this summer but if who you score against is as important as the quantity then the Uruguayan is ticking that box as well.
After bringing Benfica back into their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday night, the 22-year-old has now found the back of the net against Liverpool, Ajax, Bayern Munich and Barcelona in this season’s competition.
That would suggest a man for the big occasion but a collection of 28 goals in 35 games in all competitions shows he isn’t just picking and choosing his moments and if this first big clash against a Premier League side was a shop window, then the queue could be forming at opening time.
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Nunez’s threat was obvious given the damage he’d already caused to the European ambitions of Barcelona and Ajax this season and pre-match Jurgen Klopp identified him as a significant danger.
“He’s a good striker,” said Klopp. “The next one from Uruguay! I don’t know how they play together, Cavani, Suarez and him, in one team – that’s probably a challenge to put that in place.
“Top, top boy. Yes, the goals he’s scored. Obviously, the one against Ajax in Amsterdam was a massive one, yes in the group stage as well, so he’s not shy. “
Klopp’s endorsement may well have had a longer-term aim given Liverpool have been linked with a summer move for Nunez, although there’s hardly a shortage of forwards at Anfield.
Most of Europe’s elite have found themselves mentioned near to Nunez’s name and it certainly looks like the groundwork is being laid for a transfer this summer, with talk of a £ 60million valuation.
Benfica had to cash in on Ruben Dias two years when they crashed out of the Champions League at the qualification stage and given they are once again set to finish third domestically, they will have to try and navigate that same route to the competition next season.
It may be that Nunez has already left the Estadio da Luz by then given the demand he will be in. Young strikers are increasingly rare these days and those clubs who miss out on Erling Haaland might have to console themselves with a move for Nunez.
He certainly looks ready for the Premier League and if talk of a switch to Anfield is fanciful, then he makes a lot of sense for Manchester United. That might mean a season outside of the Champions League but even so the attraction of swapping Benfica for United is obvious.
United are in need of reinforcements in several areas this summer, but with their two strikers currently 37 and 35 and one of them leaving at the end of this season, the need to have a more youthful option in attack is clear, as Ralf Rangnick confirmed back in February.
“This is obvious,” he said when asked if United needed to sign a “younger” striker.
“Edinson’s contract is running out in the summer, and the club needs the best possible center forward. This is an obvious one. I think everyone is aware of that.”
A desire to sign a younger striker would appear to rule out Harry Kane, although that can’t be discounted entirely.
Nunez would fit the profile, however. If he arrived this summer he wouldn’t be demanding to start every game and could spend a season either playing with or rotating alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as learning from the most prolific goalscorer in the history of men’s professional football.
Against Liverpool he showed enough to suggest he has the game to fit into the Premier League and United should have been taking note.
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