The Evolution of Darwin Núñez at Liverpool

After being the victim of fail compilations in his first season as a Liverpool player, Darwin Núñez has come into his own in 2023/24. He has achieved 30+ goal contributions in 2023/24, becoming just the fourth player under Jürgen Klopp to hit these heights. The other players? Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.


Arriving in the British Isles with a £85 million label, Darwin has faced a significant level of expectation. For one, being under the shadow of past strikers at Anfield, (particularly Uruguayan ones), this already put Darwin on the backfoot given how Luis Suárez dazzled the Anfield crowds in his 3 years at the club.



Despite Suárez’s notable personal accomplishments in the Premier League, he only ever won the League Cup during his spell. In that respect, Darwin certainly has the tools in place to win much more than that and raise his status to a Liverpool icon within 3 years and beyond.


Early Beginnings in Uruguay and Iberia


Darwin started his career at Peñarol, where he would debut in November 2017 against River Plate Montevideo as a fresh 18-year-old on the Uruguayan football scene. He would spend 2 years in his native country and win 2 Primera División titles, but it would be destined that Europe would be where he would make his name.


A transfer to Almería in 2019 in Spain’s Segunda División would be where the journey began. I spoke to Joshua Johnston, an Almería fan living in Spain, who fondly recalls Darwin’s brief spell at Rojiblancos:


Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez: The Two Young Sharpshooters Headed for the Premier League


“When we first signed Darwin I was a little skeptical. We paid a lot of money for the second Spanish Division, something which isn’t very common for teams in the league – especially for a player that nobody really heard of. But he was incredible right from the off.”


“We hadn’t had a player so direct before, his style isn’t the typical one that you see in Spanish football and it was great to watch and very scary for opposition defenders when he was running at them. I only wish it didn’t have to be during COVID-19 so we could have seen him live more.”



Were the signs of Darwin’s potential already visible through the European lens? Joshua certainly believed so.


“It is obviously easy to say in hindsight, but honestly quite early into his time at Almería you could tell that Darwin would go on to play for a big team. Maybe I didn’t think it would be so early on in his career. I think going off to Benfica first to establish himself was an amazing career choice.”


“Equally, the life of a forward may grab many headlines on a Monday morning, but the adjustments required to fit certain philosophies or certain playing styles can make or break a striker over the course of their career. His style isn’t too dissimilar to how he was then to now. He loved to run at defences and shoot whenever he could.


Where Does Ryan Gravenberch Fit at Liverpool?


Perhaps he’s a little less selfish now and finds that last pass where in the past, he’d shoot from impossible angles. People seem to get on his back a lot on social media still for the chances he misses, but I think this season he’s proven with the amount of goals and assists that he is world class already.”


By the time Núñez was ready to depart Spain, Darwin was gradually being introduced to the senior side for the Uruguay national team, in pursuit of greatness – following the lineage of Fernando Morena, Diego Forlán, Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani.


A move to SL Benfica ensued. The Portuguese side broke their transfer record to secure his services, off the back of losing in the Liga NOS title race to Porto the season before. It would be the start of a terrific two-year spell that would illuminate Darwin’s name in the spotlight of European football once and for all. Across 85 games, the striker would score 48 goals and contribute 16 assists for Jorge Jesus’ side – usually lining up as a ST/LW in a 3-4-3 or 4-4-2 structure. 


Ibrahima Konaté: Liverpool’s French Colossus in Defense


“He was Benfica’s most expensive purchase and when there is no pandemic, he will be the most expensive sale. He will be a world-class striker,” said Jorge Jesus. In a world where there was no COVID-19, I am sure that he would have matched or surpassed the £111m that João Félix cost Atlético Madrid.


Playing Style


Darwin is a right footed striker that can operate both as a lone striker and in a two-striker system. Klopp’s team is synonymous with routinely playing in a 4-3-3 attacking shape, but has often been seen in a 4-2-4 to accommodate versatile players in this new-look side. 


This season, Núñez has occasionally played at left wing for Jürgen Klopp a handful of times, where he has been rather effective. In 4 games, he has had 2 goals and 2 assists – albeit against lower opposition (AFC Bournemouth, LASK, Sheffield United and West Ham United). This is certainly less than the 16 games that he was deployed on the left in his debut season, perhaps to grain him into the work rate and discipline required (which he took like a duck to water).


However, this year, it has been a different story. The majority of his gametime has been as a centre forward, where he has thrived, outright replacing the departed Roberto Firmino as the #9 in this final version of a Klopp team at Liverpool.



Some of his key strengths include his movement, positioning, physical strength, and aerial threat which makes him a classic striker by Premier League definition. His numbers for previous employers reflect that he is more than just a predator in front of goal and is highly comfortable in the left channel where he can play and combine with the wing back or winger, away from the central zones. Some other commendable traits are his immense work rate and tracking back skills, making him an effective tool in the frontline for the high press in regaining ball possession.


For his previous three clubs, Darwin has hit the ground running instantaneously. However, at Liverpool, it was a different story. Nunez would find his first season in English football a big challenge when it came to being clinical in front of goal. He would find the net just 9 times in the league in 1,698 minutes of football.


In fact, he was more prolific in the Champions League, scoring 4 goals in 8 games in just 401 minutes of gametime. Yet despite the slow burning start, his quality was still on for show, so even rival fans knew that the laughs were going to be short-lived as he was simply adjusting to the life in the Prem.


(Darwin Núñez Stats – Goals, xG, Assists & Career Stats | FootyStats)


The statistics speak for themselves. All the key numbers look better by the season for Darwin, where per 90, the Uruguayan is performing at a better standard in 23/24.


One key element is the improvement of his xG, which of course considers factors such as quality of chances and previous shooting history. The 0.24+ increase has played a significant part in him securing more goals this term as the primary #9 of this team. Similarly, the rate of assists are up despite spending less of his time at left wing.


(Darwin Núñez Stats – Goals, xG, Assists & Career Stats | FootyStats)




Darwin Núñez has collected a League Cup in his time at Liverpool so far, running parallels on paper to what his compatriot Luis Suárez achieved at Anfield. The sky can certainly be the ceiling for Darwin in this Liverpool team, and despite Jürgen Klopp leaving this summer and signalling the end to an era, he looks set to play a pivotal role in the Reds’ rebuild. The Uruguayan star is shining brightly, and he can be the next face of the Kop revolution.


By: Abdullah Mamaniyat / @mxmnyt

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Gualter Fatia – Getty Images