Darwin Nunez is confident he will ‘explode’ onto the Liverpool scene, much like his hero Luis Suarez, after a ‘difficult’ start to life at Anfield.
The striker opened up about his first seven months as a Red and his thirst for success, as well as the challenges of the language barrier and the teammates he relied on for advice… and translations.
In many ways, Nunez has already exploded onto the Merseyside scene, but not in the way he, Klopp or the club would have liked following his £85m arrival from Benfica in June.
In his first three games for the club, he scored two goals and provided an assist, but also missed countless other chances and earned a three-match ban for a red card.
Liverpool fans have started to refer to Nunez as “our mayhem man”, in an affectionate way that can be used in both praise and frustration.
There’s no doubting his talent and physical gifts of speed, strength and tenacity, but there’s no doubt that he’s still a raw, unpolished gem that still has a lot of work to do to really exploit its potential.
That being said, he is fascinating to watch and any game featuring Nunez is guaranteed entertainment.
However, for Reds fans it can also be a frustrating experience, and the same can surely be said for Klopp, with Nunez revealing his coach’s words of wisdom to improve an area of his game that really needs work. : its finish.
“I think he wants to see what he saw at Benfica,” Nunez told Sky Sports when asked what Klopp wants from him ahead of a possible return to action in the clash Saturday in the Premier League with Wolves – LIVE on talkSPORT.
“For example, in the games I played against Liverpool, where I performed very well. I don’t think I’m playing well at the moment, but I always want to improve. I’m trying to improve every day.
“Klopp knows that my strength is my speed, running in space. Moreover, he tells me that I have to be calmer when I play and that I have to move more.
“He tells me that I need that, and that I’m a player with a lot of quality. So that’s more or less what he wants from me – and, of course, to score goals.
“He told me that I have to be calm in games when it comes to finishing. He wants me to take a second more, because if I shoot in anger, or if I rush, it will always go wrong He asks me to take an extra second, calmly, and I will score.
Nunez’s stats this season are indicative of the weaknesses in his game, but also the potential for him to be one of the Premier League’s most devastating strikers.
Opta Stats says he’s missed more big chances than anyone else in the Premier League this season, but he’s also been denied by the woodwork more times – pointing to the tight margins that have kept him from increasing his current tally of ten goals.
It also ranks first in the Premier League in total shots, shots on target and fast attacking breaks, while it ranks second in touches in the opposition box and goals expected from open play.
There’s a feeling that, when it clicks, Nunez could tear the place up – similarly to Suarez who lit up Anfield after a relatively quiet first season as a Liverpool player.
And the 23-year-old is confident he can emulate his compatriot and ‘idol’, having experienced the same before his 34-goal season at Benfica which led to his transfer to Liverpool.
“It’s a case of adaptation,” says Nunez. “It’s important to adapt – and not just here at the club. Things have to be good on the football side, but also with your family, because if your family is well then you will always be well. My family and I are good.
“Obviously, I still have a lot of things to work on, for example my finish. But I think the same thing is happening to me as to Suarez. In his second year, he tore it up.
“Something similar has already happened to me at Benfica. The first year went very badly for me and the second I exploded.
“Here, I think the same thing is happening. I hope next season will be like that. I will do my best and hope to have some luck.
“It’s always useful to speak with Suarez. For me, he’s an idol. He’s a great example.
“We always talk and he always gives me advice. I always try to keep in touch with him. I ask him a lot of things because he was at this club and he has a lot more experience than me. He is an important player to give me advice and explain things to me.
Speaking of explaining things, Nunez admitted he and Klopp struggled to communicate due to the language barrier, but his Spanish-speaking teammates and No.2 Pep Lijnders help ensure he receives the message from the manager.
He also admits he was shocked by the move from the Portuguese top flight to the Premier League, despite a word of warning from a Benfica team-mate and ex-Man City star.
“It’s a very big change,” says Nunez. “Here, the league is stronger, more competitive. I didn’t expect it to be so strong. Nico Otamendi told me, but I still didn’t expect it.
“It impressed me a lot. There are no bad teams. They are all in this league for a reason. Football is more difficult than in Portugal and more competitive. You don’t have much time.
“I think after these first months of adaptation things have started to improve. I feel at home. I’m happy. When I arrive I’m looking forward to training because luckily I I have people here who speak Spanish.
“They supported me really well and they still support me today. That’s what we’re here to do. We’re a team. If we can help each other, that’s a good thing.
“My Spanish-speaking teammates always translate because I still don’t understand a lot of things,” he smiles.
“But be careful, because I’m taking English lessons. I hope that in a year and a half, minimum, I will be able to understand everything.
“He [Klopp] doesn’t speak Spanish and I don’t speak English so we don’t understand each other, but since I arrived at Liverpool he has always given me confidence.
And the forward picked Thiago Alcantara, Alisson Becker and Fabinho as the players he’s relied on the most since joining, saying: “They always give me advice and they’re always there to help me with everything. What i need.”
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