When Liverpool lost the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final, fans were distraught. The team was physically, mentally, and technically defeated on the night. Fans worried that the midfield was simply too open – that it was not good enough. That summer, a few days after defeat, Monaco holding midfielder Fabinho signed with the club. They went on to play a wonderful season, culminating in a record points total for a non-champion and victory in the Champions League Final in Madrid. This summer has felt a little different, though.
Comprehensive defeat to Madrid, albeit only by one goal, felt deflating. Fans were soon left rocked by the news that Sadio Mane wanted to leave – unlike the Fabinho deal, things went from bad to worse. A club icon was leaving, the team looked bereft of ideas, and some were worried that things were going to get worse. However, Jurgen Klopp has moved quickly to calm fan fears by completing a deal for Darwin Nunez. Reds fans know him well – he scored twice against the club in the Champions League for Benfica. At 22, he has the potential to become one of the best forwards in world football.
A fee of around £65m has been agreed, with the potential for the fee to rise to £85m based on various conditions. This would include the Reds repeating their 2019 feat and lifting the UCL once again. With years of development still to come and an already hugely impressive playing style, though, Nunez feels like the ideal remedy to the Mane problem.
Nunez signing could see tactical shift at Anfield
Interestingly, Nunez is arguably the first pure No. 9 to be signed by Klopp. He plays entirely as a striker; the kind of player who moves between the 18-yard box and the channels between full-back and centre-half. This is a player who, for some Liverpool FC fans, will remind them of Fernando Torres. Tall, rangy, quick, pacy, and good with both foot and in the air – he is, very much like ‘El Nino’ in his style.
Torres arrived having thrived in an ailing Atletico Madrid team. Nunez arrives having also done excellently in a disappointing Benfica side. SLB have won nothing in his tenure, so he does leave Lisbon as one of the rare Benfica players not to have a title to his name. Still, scoring 48 goals in two years in that Benfica side is hugely impressive.
Nunez is seen by many as a player who could see Liverpool shift from their 4-3-3 shape to a more Klopp-traditional 4-2-3-1. Changes in shape have been rare for Klopp at Liverpool. Yet his early success in Germany was built on a 4-2-3-1 shape that fitted his playing team. In his early Dortmund teams, a reference point striker was essential to success – first Lucas Barrios, then Robert Lewandowski.
The Uruguayan, then, could be the ideal add-on to their team as they look to build something different from last year. The quadruple was out of reach in 2022 – could 2023 deliver more success than a domestic cup double?