Darwin Nunez for £ 85m seems an awful lot of money, but what else can Liverpool do? They certainly can’t stand still.
You hear a lot from Liverpool fans about the frustration of trying to compete with Manchester City and all their cash.
It’s a fair complaint, as is the wider point that gets frequently lost in the tribal world of football fandom where every team must be mocked constantly for its embarrassing failure to do… something (No Champions Leagues? You Are Frauds! Only one Premier League! It Is You Who Are The Frauds!) That Liverpool do deserve a fair amount of credit for competing with City at all. Nobody else has bothered over the last five years.
We got a glimpse in 2020/21 of just how dull the Premier League could have been during in this era were it not for Liverpool, when an injury-ravaged Reds side had to sprint for the line just to nab third with a mere 69 points while a City side that did not scale their own usual heights were able to cruise to the title with what is in recent times an uncharacteristically low winning total of 86, ‘chased’ home by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plucky Manchester United.
Normal service was resumed this season, with both the country dominant teams cruising through the 90-point barrier while only two others even managed to nudge past 70.
And while there are legitimate reasons to think any or all of a fully Conte Spurs or consequence-avoiding Chelsea or incomparably wealthy Newcastle or even, stop laughing, Arsenal and Manchester United will be better next year, it still seems pretty likely that if we ‘ re looking for someone to give Manchester City anything to worry about with regards to the actual title then it is going to have to be Liverpool.
And that also means Liverpool are going to have to push the boat out. Now for all the pauper talk you get from Liverpool supporters, this is where the sympathy does start to run out. They can and do spend big money and also are very good at doing so, which is more of a compliment than it sounds because a lot of clubs are genuinely terrible at spending big money. It really isn’t as easy as it sounds or as easy as Liverpool have made it look.
When Liverpool needed a new goalkeeper, they identified the one they wanted and spent the big money needed to get him. It was a very good decision. When Liverpool needed a new center-back, they identified the one they wanted and spent the big money needed to get him. Again, pretty handy decision.
Now they find themselves in need of restocking what has been a formidable front three. Luis Diaz was smart work, but with City wisely calling time on the whole ‘who needs strikers’ experiment by signing the best young one on the planet – one who will also not be going to the World Cup which could be a very significant factor in yet another weirdly formatted season – Liverpool absolutely cannot afford to stand still. For all our sakes if we’re hoping for any kind of title race next season.
But while City have made a monumental upgrade by replacing a question mark with a superhuman goal machine, Liverpool have had to face the prospect of losing at least one of their own stars.
It isn’t always easily avoided, but reaching a point where all of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have just a year left on their contracts is undeniably sub-optimal. Mane appears set on leaving for a new challenge in Munich, and Liverpool simply cannot afford to consider entering next season weaker than they ended the last.
And that all means that while £ 85m on Darwin Nunez might seem like a lot of moolah for the paupers of the big two, it is both entirely in keeping with Liverpool’s recent (very successful) transfer strategy and in all likelihood less of a gamble than not spending it.
Liverpool have already done nicely this year out of signing a South American forward from the Portuguese league who they have seen at close quarters in the Champions League, and Nunez was arguably the standout player on either side across the two legs of their quarter-final. Jurgen Klopp was quick to praise the Uruguayan afterwards and it was pretty clear then the cogs were already whirring.
It’s a lot of money, and it will undoubtedly make it harder for Liverpool fans to play the ‘poor us’ card next season. But it might just make it possible for them to give City another run for their vast pots of money. And it’s not just Liverpool fans who should hope to see that.