Darwin Nunez’s rise, as he sits on the brink of becoming Liverpool’s most expensive signing of all time, has been pretty rapid.
Just two years ago he was playing in the Spanish second division for Almeria, where he scored 16 goals as they finished fourth, narrowly missing out on promotion.
He has come a long way from second-tier striker to Champions League quarter-final goalscorer in just a couple of years.
But is that the case? Or were Almeria fans convinced that the 22-year-old would always go on to play for one of Europe’s top clubs?
“He was definitely raw,” Fox Sports presenter and Almeria fan James Dodd told talkSPORT.
“But one thing that stood out straight away was that, for a player of his height – he’s quite a big boy and he’s quite an imposing figure – he was so quick.
“It wasn’t just speed where he would kind of run in straight lines, it was the timing of his runs and, even at a young age, he wasn’t offside too often.
“He was also one of these players that had so much energy, but he channelled it in the right way.
Ronaldo future ‘doubts’, Mane opens up on exit, Lukaku move agreed, Raphinha battle
“And he was so strong, even in his early 20s. He was strong enough to be able to hold players off and bring other people into play. ”
Despite being at the club for just one season, before he was snapped up by Portuguese giants Benfica in a £ 20million deal – which made them a quick £ 10m profit – his quality was clear to see.
And one of his 16 goals, in particular, summed up exactly what sort of player Reds fans can expect at Anfield next season.
“I think it was either the first or the second minute of the game,” Dodd explained.
Almeria punted a long ball forward and he just charged after it, penned the defender in the right-back area, won the ball off of him, brought it along the byline, and then just hammered it home.
“That just showed you everything that he encompasses in one move – the aggression to charge after that ball so early in the game, he was clever in that he did not commit a foul, and then just hammered home his finish.”
He added: “You kind of realized straight away, after about three months of him being in the south of Spain, that he’s not going to be here for very long.”
But will he fit Liverpool’s style of play?
Jurgen Klopp has regularly played with Roberto Firmino as a false nine – but Nunez does not necessarily fit that bill, implying that the German boss may opt for something slightly different tactically next season.
“I think if you asked [Nunez]he’d say he’s a No.9, ”said Dodd.
But, having seen him in his early days, he ventured out wide a lot, he would run the channels and, even at 19 or 20 years old, he had a tactical understanding that meant he knew that if he ventured out into the channels , he knew where the inside forward or the winger would be.
“His tactical understanding was very, very good.
“If you look at his goal record, it would tell you that the best place for him is down the middle.
“But he’s good with the ball at his feet, he can find passes and his passing range is pretty good.
“He’s also got the ability, like Firmino, he can drop in and hold the ball up but, because of the sheer pace of him, it’s not an issue because he can then make the run and get in behind as well.
“He’s almost a bit of a freak.”
He added: “He would be a fantastic Firmino 2.0, in terms of the role he plays in Liverpool.”
It feels as though Klopp had to react to Manchester City’s signing of Erling Haaland, after Pep Guardiola signed the Borussia Dortmund superstar earlier this window.
The two clubs have intensely gone toe-to-toe with each other over the last few seasons, so every minute decision they make can have an impact on who will win the title.
And Dodd believes that Nunez is more than capable of going head-to-head with Haaland when it comes to goalscoring next season.
Dodd said: “He’s not Erling Haaland but, physically, he’s not too far off that type of player, so he’s got the ability to do a job if you played him slightly wider.”
He added: “If we had to compare the two of them and you had to pick someone for the Golden Boot race, most people would probably lean to Erling Haaland.
“But, if he has a season that most people know he’s capable of, then he’s going to be in that conversation, for sure.”
Nunez will be the first Uruguayan striker to play for the Reds since Luis Suarez, so comparisons were always going to be made.
And, during Nunez’s time at Almeria, he showed why he can ‘fill Suarez’s boots’ when he arrives on Merseyside this summer.
“He does have a temper!” Dodd explained.
“I think it’s that you know a lot of people would put it down to the Uruguayan ‘Garra Charrua’ spirit.
“What Liverpool fans loved about Luis Suarez – he had his misdemeanours, he was a naughty boy at times – but his approach and his attitude make him the sort of player that old school football fans would watch and go, ‘I like him’ – and it’s the same with Darwin.
“He runs his backside off, he tries hard, and he will come off the pitch exhausted.
“And I think that’s what Liverpool fans will love about him because he’s got that fiery side to him.
“And if he hits the ground running like most people assume he will, and if he gets the goals that most people assume that he will, then he’s going to be the fans’ absolute dream.”
He added: “I think he’s got all the characteristics to be able to fill those boots that Luis Suarez had.”
fbq('init', '752905198150451'); fbq('track', "PageView"); .