Newcastle United transfer target Darwin Nunez: Strengths, injury issue, Cavani comparison

Darwin Nunez profiled as Newcastle United are linked the Benfica player during the January transfer window.

<p>Newcastle United have been linked with Darwin Nunez. </p>

Newcastle United have been linked with Darwin Nunez.

Newcastle United’s bid to add more firepower to Eddie Howe’s squad has brought Benfica frontman Darwin Nunez across their radar.

The Magpies are just one of a number of clubs from across Europe to have shown an interest in acquiring the services of the Uruguay international.

United are in good company with the likes of Premier League rivals Manchester City and Chelsea, Italian champions Inter and Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund all linked with the striker.

Nunez is expected to have a buyout clause worth around £100m inserted into his current deal - but it has been reported he is available for around half of that figure by several sources.

It is not difficult to see why the 22-year-old has become one of the most sought-after strikers in Europe after forging a strong reputation in the early part of a promising career.

Shining at home…eventually.

Nunez’s development began in the youth setup at Uruguayan giants Penerol and he made his way into their first-team setup in the early months of 2017.

A knee injury halted his bid for a first senior appearance, but that finally arrived in November that year as he replaced former Liverpool star Maxi Rodriguez in a 2-1 defeat at River Plate Montevideo.

Problems with his knee returned just weeks later and the 18-year-old underwent surgery before finally making a big impact upon his recovery.

A first senior goal was racked up in October 2018 when he fired the opening goal in a 2-0 home win against Fenix and there was a notable achievement in July 2019 when the youngster blasted a hat-trick in a 4-0 Torneo Intermedio hammering of Boston River.

After starring across the Penerol frontline during a relatively short spell in the first-team setup, Nunez began to attract attention from clubs in Europe.

The youngster secured a £11.7 million move to Spanish second tier side Almeria in August 2019, with the deal being secured just two months after his 20th birthday.

Building a reputation in Spain and Cavani comparisons

Injury issues delayed his introduction into life with Almeria but Nunez did find the net on his first start as he grabbed the first goal in a 3-2 home win against Extremadura in late October.

Confidence flowed through the youngster as he quickly adapted to life in Europe and he ended his first season in Spain with 16 goals in 32 games in all competitions.

His performances with the Andalusian club led to comparisons with current Manchester United striker Edison Cavani.

Uruguayan winger Mariano Bogliacino told a local radio station: “He is a fast, very strong attacker.

“He has physical strength and good instincts, like Cavani.

“He can thrive in the penalty area,” Former Napoli winger Mariano Bogliacino

Sheffield United were linked with the striker but it was Brighton that became the first English club to show a serious interest in giving Nunez an opportunity to shine in the Premier League.

A run of 16 goals in 30 appearances led to an enquiry from the Seagulls in the summer of 2020 but the lure of Portuguese giants Benfica saw the striker opt for a club record £21.5 million switch to to Estadio da Luz.

The fee was a record for a La Liga 2 player and surpassed the £15million Chelsea paid for Atletico Madrid’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in May 2000.

Tipped for the top after success in Portugal

Nunez made his Benfica debut just under two weeks after joining the club as he came on as a second-half substitute in a Champions League third qualifying round tie against PAOK.

Assists, rather than goals, became the hallmark of his opening month as a Benfica player with the striker laying on five goals for his team-mates during his first four appearances for the club.

However, the net was soon bulging as Nunez hit a hat-trick in a Europa League tie at Lech Poznan in October and then grabbed his first league goal for the club in a 2-0 home win against Belenenses four days later.

His first season in Portugal ended with 14 goals and 12 assists in all competitions as the Lisbon-based giants ended the campaign in third place in the Primeira Liga table.

His form has carried on into the current season and the striker currently has 18 goals in just 23 appearances despite the season being disrupted by knee and foot injuries.

Included in that total is a brace in a 3-0 win against Barcelona in a Champions League group stage game and hat-tricks in league fixtures at Belenenses and Famalicão.

Benfica boss Jorge Jesus has already tipped the striker for big things but insisted he still has a lot to learn.

He said: “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 player. We got it right.

“We must not forget that he is a kid, he is 21 years old, there is a lot about the game that he does not know yet.

“He will learn with me and Benfica.”

Links with the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Liverpool led to speculation Nunez could be tempted away from Estadio da Luz.

Speaking in October 2021, his agent Edgardo Lasalvia told FC Inter News: “Darwin is ready to play for any team on the planet.

“Various top-level teams have contacted us but, for the moment, he is concentrating on continuing and growing with Benfica and with the Uruguayan national team.

“This is how important things will come in the future.”

Former Sunderland manager gives his support

Former Sunderland manager Gus Poyet has thrown his support behind the striker and insisted he can become a success at domestic and international level.

“No doubt, 100%. I think he is the future of the Uruguayan national team,” explained the former Uruguay international.

“I think he will be the future number nine when the big guys – Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani – finish.

“He has a little bit of competition from Maxi Gómez, who plays for Valencia, but Maxi is having some problems with his consistency, but we know Núñez is going to be top.

“What he done in Spain, playing for Almeria, at an early age of his career, was impressive. And to play for a team like Benfica every week shows his quality.

“I think if he keeps improving, he’s going to be a top, top number nine. I think he has a great future.”

It would take a large fee, seeing off some major competition and a large dose of patience for the future to take place on Tyneside.