In Focus: Reds star Darwin can deliver next step in Liverpool's evolution
The next evolution of Liverpool is upon us.
Darwin Nunez's arrival signifies a shift in what supporters will see from Jurgen Klopp's outfit next season.
The £64million marquee signing joined up with his new team-mates ahead of their pre-season trip to Thailand, where the first clash of the tour sees Liverpool take on old rivals Manchester United.
It is not the only battle between these two clubs in recent months, with both wanting to sign Nunez.
Ahead of the match, we take a look at why the Uruguay international was so in demand during his stint with Benfica.
Goals, goals, goals
Despite playing under 2,000 Primeira Liga minutes last term, Nunez scored a remarkable 26 league goals.
He finished as the division's top scorer and chipped in with a further six in the Champions League, with that haul including two against his future employers — one of which was an outrageous finish past Alisson.
Prolific central strikers are at a premium these days and Nunez has proven himself to be a reliable goal threat.
He previously scored 16 in 30 Segunda Division appearances for Spanish outfit Almeria, before amassing 32 in 57 top-flight outings for Benfica.
Pace and power
Nunez has a rare profile.
The 23-year-old comes in at 6ft 2in but is explosively quick over both short and long distances.
In fact, he clocked up the second-highest speed in the Champions League last season, with his 36.5kmh burst only being beaten by Bayern Munich's Alphonso Davies.
The South American is an all-rounder, in the sense he can hold the ball up against juggernaut defenders — just as he did in the Champions League tie against Liverpool — but he is also able to beat the majority of players in a foot race.
With Nunez leading the line, Liverpool will be able to stretch play or retain possession deep in the final third.
The Reds' new No27 is a dual threat.
After Liverpool announced the deal to sign Nunez, Klopp was quick to temper expectations.
But he did hint at why the Merseysiders parted with big money to bring him to Anfield — the forward's potential longevity.
He said: "It's important we all recognise we are getting a 'work in progress' with Darwin.
"Darwin is a wonderful player, already really good but so much potential to get even better.
"That's why it's so exciting, to be honest. His age, his desire, his hunger to be even better than he currently is. His belief in our project and what we are looking to do as a club.
"He has all the pieces we look for. He can set a tempo, he brings energy, he can threaten space from central and wide areas. He is aggressive and dynamic with his movement.
"He plays without fear, he's powerful. I know he will excite our supporters."
According to reports, Manchester United were initially favourites to land Nunez.
He had been identified as a top target for new manager Erik ten Hag — and the Red Devils held talks with the player's agent Jorge Mendes on multiple occasions.
However, with so much firepower within their ranks and other areas to strengthen, United were reluctant to spend up to £85m on a single player.
Instead, they signed Feyenoord full-back Tyrell Malacia and are actively trying to get a deal for Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong over the line.
Nobody will know whether that was the right decision until the upcoming season concludes — but United might rue allowing Liverpool a free run at Nunez in the long-term.
An immediate impact
Through no fault of his own, the pressure is on Nunez.
His £64m price tag means expectations have been raised and he will be scrutinised from the get-go.
The 11-cap international will want to make an immediate impact — but the Reds' upcoming pre-season friendlies are ultimately about building fitness and familiarising players with new systems.
It would therefore be unwise to read too much into his performances until the season is under way and he is up to speed.
That said, an immediate impact against Manchester United would certainly be a welcome bonus.