Darwin Nunez will prove to a “big hit” for Liverpool in the Premier League because of his action-packed early career, a former Benfica colleague of his believes.
The Reds paid an initial £64million to the Portuguese giants for Nunez, whose fee could in fact rise to £85million. That would prove a club-record investment for Liverpool, overtaking Virgil van Dijk’s £75million fee.
Nunez arrived at Anfield after a spell of blistering form for Benfica. Indeed, he scored twice against Liverpool in the Champions League.
His Merseyside spell has yet to really get going, though. Despite a debut goal against Fulham, Nunez then received a red card and has since started a lot of games on the bench.
There is nevertheless a belief from Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp that Nunez will prove his worth.
And Evandro Mota, who worked with Nunez as Benfica’s sports psychologist, feels the same way having watched the striker’s development first-hand.
Mota opened up to FourFourTwo on how Nunez removed his Instagram account after receiving criticism for his initial lack of Benfica goals.
“When an athlete has the guts to admit he needs some help, it’s so much easier to work with him,” Mota said.
“That’s Darwin, a boy way ahead of his age who always kept an open mind and was willing to listen to the right people.
“When people are dealing with so much criticism, we suggest it’s best if they isolate themselves from the environment that’s doing them harm. Darwin is a kid who demands a lot for himself and realised the social media stuff would only bring him down.
“He had already overcome a lot in his life, and that episode has helped him become an even better professional. That’s what makes him a real gem, not only in terms of technical quality, but also in terms of intelligence.”
Mota, whose work with players dates back to the Brazil squad at the 1994 World Cup, also said he noticed something in Nunez that “very, very few” players have shown.
Darwin Nunez has something special
Mota said: “It was a whole different culture for him [when he joined Benfica]. I was impressed by him. He said something that I’ve never forgotten and immediately told head coach Jorge Jesus about.
“Darwin said, ‘Look, I know I have a lot to learn and to keep gaining experience’. This from a 21-year-boy.
“I’ve been working with some of the best football talents for more than four decades.
“Do you know how many times I’ve seen a youngster being this mature and humble at this age, even after fulfilling his dream of helping his parents buy a home? Very, very few times.”
Mota concluded that he has “absolutely no doubt” Nunez “will seize his opportunities”.
Liverpool will hope Nunez can put some more goals away to help improve their form.
The Reds have only won three of eight games this campaign and currently sit eighth in the Premier League table.
Liverpool man copying earlier signings
Nunez may have started brilliantly at Liverpool with his debut goal, but he is now working towards becoming a regular starter.
And that is the process many of his current Anfield team-mates have gone through.
Left-back Andy Robertson was an unknown quantity when he joined from Hull in the summer of 2017. But after battling with Alberto Moreno, the Scotland captain did not look back.
In midfield, defensive midfielder Fabinho had to get used to the intensity of the Premier League following his spell in France with Monaco.
He too, though, has proved highly influential in the success Klopp has brought to Liverpool.
Klopp perhaps put Nunez on against Fulham to give him an early test to see what he was made of.
But after his sending off in his first start against Palace, Klopp has clearly made a U-turn. It looks as if he has kept the striker’s minutes and starts in check.
Given how Robertson and Fabinho adapted to Liverpool, Nunez will surely follow the same path eventually.