Premier League • England

Price tag, what price tag as Virgil van Dijk cuts down critics of ‘quality’ Liverpool attacker

Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip

Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk believes forward Darwin Nunez has impressed with the way he has made light of the burden of his price tag to become a key part of the team quickly.

The Uruguay international heads to the World Cup next week on the back of a match-winning double in the 3-1 victory over Southampton on Saturday which took his tally for the club to seven in his last 10 appearances.

After a shaky start, which saw him miss three matches after a red card against Crystal Palace in only his third game for the club, Nunez has rapidly become a fan favourite.

His arrival from Benfica, in what could turn out to be a club-record £85million transfer, placed a large burden on a player who only turned 23 in the summer but – despite starting afresh in a new country where he barely speaks the language – the South American is starting to flourish.

Van Dijk, who knows all about shouldering the weight of a hefty transfer fee after his 2018 £75m move from Southampton was a world record for a defender at the time, has seen the progress first hand.

“We never doubted his quality but obviously, when you have price tag like that and the goals are not flowing like you want, it’s good (he has shown character) and I think he’s done very well,” said the Holland captain.

“Obviously he has all the qualities for a modern-day striker.

“There is a reason why we bought him and he’s maturing, he’s stayed patient, kept his head down and played and that’s a credit to him and hopefully he can keeps scoring and stay important for the group.

“Obviously he learns how we want to play, he learns what we expect from him, he plays a little bit on the left but also has a free role coming into the middle.

“It takes time you know. It is a new team, new environment, new country, new language so it is absolutely normal for him to take a little bit more time (to settle in) but there is no doubt the qualities are there and the goals will follow.”

Van Dijk hails ‘outstanding’ Alisson

While Nunez is an emerging talent, Liverpool’s player of the season so far goalkeeper Alisson Becker has maintained a higher level while team-mates have been struggling for form and he was just as instrumental in the win.

The Brazil international made three crucial saves after the break from Mohamed Elyounoussi, Samuel Edozie and first-half goalscorer Che Adams to deny new Saints boss Nathan Jones hope of getting something out of his Premier League debut at Anfield.

“You shouldn’t take anyone for granted. We certainly never do that,” added Van Dijk.

“He’s important for the group on and off the pitch. We don’t want him to have to make saves, first and foremost. He had to do so (against Southampton) and he was outstanding.

“Brazil are a very good team, they have two of their best goalies in their squad and in my opinion the best goalie in the world is Alisson.”

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