There will no doubt be some convinced that Liverpool are gambling on potential when signing Darwin Nunez for a mouthwatering up front fee of £64m.
Benfica rolled the dice when snapping up a relatively unproven talent from Almeria in Spain’s second-tier; an opportunity the Uruguayan seized with both hands.
Speaking to Gabriel Gonzalez about the striker’s formative years at Penarol, a side based in Montevideo in Uruguay’s top-flight, however, one gets the sense that the player was always destined for the highest level of the game.
“His evolution was impressive. Let’s see, when they went to look for him in Artigas (the city where he lived) and took him to Peñarol, he already stood out as a player at 13 years old,” the 22-year-old’s former physical trainer at Penarol exclusively told the Empire of the Kop.
“In Peñarol from the U14s until reaching the First Division, his evolution was always very outstanding.
“Over time he forged a great personality, the teachers and coaches contributed a lot in the formation of him as a person and as a player.
“I had Darwin Nunez in the U14s, U15s, and reserves.
“He was a very educated young man, very disciplined, technically and physically he stood out from the others.
“He lived in a city far from Montevideo; when he arrived in Montevideo, in Peñarol, without his parents at first it was a bit difficult to change.
“You had to contain him a lot, talk a lot with him. The change was very big and very drastic. But he was getting used to it, adapting and soccer-wise he was improving.”
Almeria’s interest in the then Manyas Aurinegros star was more than justified in light of his blossoming physical and technical attributes, despite not hitting particularly impressive numbers in front of goal.
“Impressive genetics (his older brother, who also played in Penarol, was the same), an imposing physical display,” Gonzalez added.
“Technically very good, he stood out for how well he hit the ball.
“His challenges were always for his family. He wanted to succeed to help his parents, he worked for it.”
Joining Penarol (roughly 501km, directly, from Artigas), it seems Benfica’s justification in signing potential has dogged much of our latest signing’s playing career.
“He was a project player with massive potential,” the trainer continued.
“At 14, it’s hard to know if you’re going to be a star or not, if he had all the qualities to be.
“His evolution was impressive. When they went to look for him in Artigas (the city where he lived) and took him to Penarol, he already stood out as a player at 13 years old.”
The question remains as to what Liverpool can expect from their latest exciting, though somewhat raw, attacking signing.
A good starting point, perhaps, may be to recognise that Jurgen Klopp’s men are getting a lot more than just promise from the off – this isn’t a gamble, as has been proved to a great extent by the faith shown in a £64m up front fee.
To put it simply, as far as the club is concerned: no roll of the dice will have occurred when evaluating the merits of agreeing a deal that could jump up to £85m in total if the conditions of the add-ons agreed are met.
“For me, he is already one of the best strikers in the world,” Gonzalez told the Empire of the Kop.
“In these years that he was in Almeria and Benfica, he improved a lot in all aspects, both physical and football.
“He is a very young player with impressive qualities. I think he is a player who has no ceiling!
“[By] having teachers, coaches and teammates who make him feel good, he can continue to grow as a footballer. Without a doubt!”
For Gabriel Gonzalez, Liverpool under the renowned German tactician very much seems the right place for the former Penarol starlet to reach even greater heights.
“It is difficult to talk about the future and if I believe that the Premier is a league where he can develop his best football,” the trainer continued. “I think that having a coach like Jurgen Klopp, having the players that Liverpool has, the history that the club has – I think that all of this will help Darwin continue to improve and show the best football version of himself.”