Transfer Talk: Darwin's evolution piques Premier League interest

Matthew Storey
LiveScore
Darwin Nunez is expected to leave Benfica this summer and has plenty of suitors
Darwin Nunez is expected to leave Benfica this summer and has plenty of suitors

Now Dusan Vlahovic has moved to Juventus, those clubs unable to splash the cash on Erling Haaland have another prime target.

Benfica striker Darwin Nunez has been ripping up the Portuguese top flight, scoring goals for fun domestically as well as finding the back of the net in important Champions League ties.

That has led him to be linked with a whole host of Premier League clubs — and he will play one of them in Liverpool next week.

We take a look at the South American sensation, 22, as he prepares for a trip to Braga on Friday night.

Potential

It did not take long for Nunez to adjust to European football after moving from Penarol in his native Uruguay shortly after his 20th birthday.

In his first season at Almeria in LaLiga 2, Nunez scored 16 goals in 32 games as his side narrowly missed out on promotion.

Benfica saw enough to spend £20million on the Uruguayan, though the payback was not immediate.

Fourteen goals in all competitions last season was a modest return as he struggled with some knee problems and Brighton’s interest in the striker last August almost felt a little premature.

Darwin Nunez wheels away after scoring the winner against Ajax for Benfica
Darwin Nunez wheels away after scoring the winner against Ajax for Benfica

Stunning season

But Nunez has quickly become one of the most talked-about forwards in Europe on the back of a simply stunning breakthrough season.

He has scored 26 goals in 33 appearances, including the winner in the Champions League last-16 tie at Ajax earlier this month.

That was not his only Champions League goal — he netted twice in a famous 3-0 win over Barcelona and once in a defeat at Bayern Munich.

The other 22 goals have all come in the league despite Benfica disappointing and sitting in third place.

Elite mentality

Odysseas Vlachodimos comes up against Nunez every day in training and the Benfica keeper revealed how hard his team-mate works.

The Greek international also explained that the Eagles' No9 is the sort of player who gets angry when he does not find the back of the net — the sort of mentality that will see him rise to the top.

Vlachodimos exclusively told LiveScore: "He listens and tries to get better. He’s mad if he doesn’t score. 

"And he’s a fantastic football player. He’s very young, but a good striker. He’s shown many times what he can do and what his strengths are. 

"I wish him all the best to keep on working like he does now and to stay healthy and help us by scoring many important goals."

Premier League interest

By now, at least seven clubs have been linked with a move for Nunez.

Brighton last summer, Liverpool earlier this year, Newcastle and West Ham at the start of March and now top-four rivals Manchester United and Arsenal.

Atletico Madrid are also interested but what has become clear is whoever wants to sign him will likely need to offer Champions League football.

Ex-Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell is not convinced meeting Benfica's £60m-plus asking price would be a smart move, however.

Campbell said: "It is always a risk signing a player from the Portuguese league. You hope that you have all of your ducks in a row but there are no guarantees.

"There will be quite a few clubs interested in Nunez given his goal output. It will be interesting to see who meets Benfica’s demands in the summer. He is definitely a sought-after player."

Darwin Nunez has scored four times in this season's Champions League
Darwin Nunez has scored four times in this season's Champions League

Liverpool chance

Now Nunez has the chance to increase Benfica’s asking price further when he plays against Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-finals.

It was the perfect tie for the Reds in a last-eight filled with Europe’s biggest and best sides — but do not write off the Portuguese giants.

Former England international Micah Richards knows if Benfica are to shock Jurgen Klopp and Co, Nunez will be the key.

He said: "Darwin Nunez has caught my eye all year and he came up trumps for Benfica once again, to send them into the last eight.

"Nunez scored his 26th goal of the season and is only 22. He is tall, strong, he runs in behind and knows how to finish.

"He’s scored against Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Ajax so far — don’t discount him doing the same against Liverpool."

Even if he does not harm them next week, there is every chance he will get more opportunities to do so come the summer.

Tags

Liga PortugalBenficaPremier LeagueWest Ham UnitedNewcastle UnitedArsenalManchester UnitedLiverpoolBrighton & Hove AlbionAtletico MadridLaLiga
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