Three clubs hope Darwin Núñez’s imminent move to the Premier League will be a resounding success. The first is Liverpool — placing considerable trust in its soon-to-be striker. The second is Portuguese seller Benfica, which has agreed to make the Uruguayan the club’s second most expensive outgoing upfront after João Félix to Atlético Madrid in 2019. The third is a lesser-known side playing in Spain’s second tier until recently: Almería.
Almería is no stranger to La Liga but has been absent from the top league for seven years. That will change when it kicks off against the best national sides this August, with next season’s fixture list scheduled for publication on June 23. Marginally the best in the Segunda mix last time out, finishing champion on goal difference, and with 81 points, it will carry some momentum going into the upcoming campaign.
As everyone gears up to see what impact Núñez has at Liverpool, there will be knock-on effects outside Anfield. Benfica will use the funds — an initial € 75 million ($ 78 million) —to reinvest and build on its underwhelming third-place finish in the Portuguese league and a much more encouraging run in the Champions League — halted by Jürgen Klopp’s Reds in the last eight in April. There will also be an impact in southern Spain.
Across the Iberian border, Almería will profit too — two years after Nuñez last played there. In 2020, the 22-year-old was finding his way in Europe and did enough to earn himself a € 24 million ($ 25 million) switch to Benfica, which has turned out to be a great business for both clubs. Financially, at least, smaller Almería made its biggest sale, and Benfica recruited a forward who has gone on to score a bucket load of goals. And there could be more to come yet.
If Nuñez blossoms in England, playing regularly and winning trophies with Liverpool, Benfica should cash in up to € 100 million ($ 105 million) with add-ons. Almería is reportedly entitled to a 20% cut of Benfica’s total earnings, which would be € 20 million ($ 21 million). Altogether, the Spaniards could pocket € 44 million ($ 46 million) from Núñez deals if you include the initial release they agreed. After signing him from Uruguayan side Peñarol for € 13 million ($ 14 million) in 2019, it’s a handy cash injection overall for a Spanish team whose aim is to remain in La Liga next season.
There is some uncertainty as to whether Liverpool will strike gold with Núñez. The forward is physically imposing and seems built for the Premier League, much like Erling Haaland, whose Manchester City transfer is complete. Núñez has also demonstrated the goalscoring touch needed in Europe by scoring in the Champions League. His breakthrough season has resulted in sizeable bids. But it was — indeed — one breakthrough, and scoring prolifically in the Premier League will not be easy, even with the quality players he will have around him.
Clearer is what he leaves behind. For a club like Almería, even a fraction of the transfer fees may decide whether it stays among the top 20 teams or drops down again. It already has a proven goalscorer in Umar Sadiq, so leveling up other areas could make a telling difference. Also vying for survival will be returning Real Valladolid, while one of Girona or Tenerife will occupy the final promotion spot. The outcome hangs in the balance, with the second leg of their play-off this Sunday on the Canary island.
Led by boss Rubi, who has top-flight managerial experience, most recently with Real Betis, Almería will fancy its chances. Going by the most recent final standings, it could be all to play for during the last matches. In the season just gone, it was very close, with Mallorca’s survival sealed late on and Rayo Vallecano just four points above relegated Granada, despite finishing six places above the drop zone by the close.
If it makes good squad decisions this off-season, Almería has every chance of staying clear. The windfall received from the Núñez deal certainly gives it a competitive edge.