Arsenal are set to make their first big splash of this transfer period with the signing of 22-year-old Porto midfielder Fabio Vieira.

The Gunners have been linked with various big names – including Raheem Sterling, Youri Tielemans and Christopher Nkunku – but have struggled to get deals over the line for players that could be considered key signings.

Vieira, who has made 20 appearances for Portugal Under-21s, was a move that came out of left-field, but those that call the Emirates Stadium home will hope it proves to be a masterstroke.

 

TOP STORY – VIEIRA'S MOVE TO ARSENAL REACHES FINAL STAGES

According to ESPN, a deal in the range of €40million is said to be in place, with Vieira said to be heading to London for his medical on Friday before finalising a five-year deal.

The talented attacking midfielder – who played in both the number-10 role and as a second striker – finished the Primeira Liga season with six goals and 14 assists from 27 appearances. Nobody in Portugal's top division had more assists.

Vieira reportedly had a €50m release clause with Porto, but the club were happy to accept the reduced figure.

It could be the start of a big week for Arsenal, with ESPN also mentioning they are leading the race for Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus in a deal that could be worth up to £50 million.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to The Sun, Liverpool remain interested in Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, but they will remain patient and not pursue him in this transfer period.

– Inter have turned down a €50m bid from Paris Saint-Germain for Milan Skriniar, holding firm at an asking price of €80m, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Newcastle United target Sven Botman is reportedly favouring Milan if he is to leave Lille, per Football Insider.

– The Telegraph is reporting Southampton have agreed to a deal worth up to £15m for 20-year-old City goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, while The Athletic claims they are also interested in 18-year-old City midfielder Romeo Lavia.

Fulham and Wolves will reportedly compete for the signature of Sporting midfielder Joao Palhinha, according to 90min.

Luis Suarez has backed fellow Uruguayan Darwin Nunez to hit the ground running at Liverpool.

The Reds this week confirmed the signing of the 22-year-old on a "long-term contract" from Benfica. Nunez is costing Liverpool a reported £64million (€75m), with a further £21.4m in potential add-ons.

The striker joins after netting 48 goals in 85 appearances for Benfica, finishing as last season's Primeira Liga top scorer with 26 strikes.

He also scored in both of Benfica's Champions League matches against Liverpool and has begun to make his mark at international level.

Suarez spent three and a half years at Liverpool before moving on in 2014 to Barcelona, where the goals continued to flow as he teamed up with Lionel Messi.

He later moved on to Atletico Madrid, whom he left at the end of the 2021-22 season, with the 35-year-old now seeking his next challenge.

Responding to a message on Instagram from Nunez which showed the young forward in Liverpool, Suarez wrote: "I was the first one too! But I hope you are the first in GOALS."

Suarez, 35, scored 82 goals for Liverpool, which sets a high target for Nunez.

Reds newcomer Nunez replied to Suarez by writing: "It is an honour for me to follow in your footsteps! I hope I can perform like you did in Liverpool!"

Liverpool begin their 2022-23 Premier League campaign at promoted Fulham on the opening weekend, with Manchester United and Everton lying in wait early in the season.

After finishing runners-up to Manchester City last term, Jurgen Klopp's side will be looking to get off to a strong start this time around.

They tackle Crystal Palace at Anfield on the second weekend, before travelling to face fierce rivals United at Old Trafford on August 20.

Home clashes with Bournemouth and Newcastle United follow, before a September 3 visit to Goodison Park for the derby with Everton.

Liverpool have 10 games in the league before they encounter champions Manchester City, with that Anfield game in the diary for October 15, while they return from the World Cup break with a December 26 visit to Aston Villa.

If Liverpool take the title race all the way to the final day, as happened last season, they will learn their fate on the south coast, where Southampton await them on May 28.

Liverpool's 2022-23 Premier League fixtures in full:

06/08/2022 – Fulham (a)
13/08/2022 – Crystal Palace (h)
20/08/2022 – Manchester United (a)
27/08/2022 – Bournemouth (h)
31/08/2022 – Newcastle United (h)
03/09/2022 – Everton (a)
10/09/2022 – Wolves (h)
17/09/2022 – Chelsea (a)
01/10/2022 – Brighton and Hove Albion (h)
08/10/2022 – Arsenal (a)
15/10/2022 – Manchester City (h)
19/10/2022 – West Ham (h)
22/10/2022 – Nottingham Forest (a)
29/10/2022 – Leeds United (h)
05/11/2022 – Tottenham (a)
12/11/2022 – Southampton (h)
26/12/2022 – Aston Villa (a)
31/12/2022 – Leicester City (h)
02/01/2023 – Brentford (a)
14/01/2023 – Brighton and Hove Albion (a)
21/01/2023 – Chelsea (h)
04/02/2023 – Wolves (a)
11/02/2023 – Everton (h)
18/02/2023 – Newcastle United (a)
25/02/2023 – Crystal Palace (a)
04/03/2023 – Manchester United (h)
11/03/2023 – Bournemouth (a)
18/03/2023 – Fulham (h)
01/04/2023 – Manchester City (a)
08/04/2023 – Arsenal (h)
15/04/2023 – Leeds United (a)
22/04/2023 – Nottingham Forest (h)
25/04/2023 – West Ham (a)
29/04/2023 – Tottenham (h)
06/05/2023 – Brentford (h)
13/05/2023 – Leicester City (a)
20/05/2023 – Aston Villa (h)
28/05/2023 – Southampton (a)

Manchester City and Liverpool will come straight out of Champions League midweek action into the fire of a Premier League showdown in October.

After battling to the final day of the 2021-22 campaign in a title tussle that City edged, few would be surprised to see Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp's teams again battling it out for supremacy.

Chelsea, no longer owned by Roman Abramovich, will look to stake a claim, while Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal will hope to improve on last season's efforts.

A host of early season games catch the eye, perhaps none more than the Old Trafford clash between Manchester United and Liverpool on August 20.

Liverpool twice outclassed United last season, but it could be a different story now Erik ten Hag has moved into the Red Devils top job. The former Ajax head coach would make a major early statement if his team can deliver on that day

Here, Stats Perform looks at key games in the new season, after the fixtures were released on Thursday.


Chelsea v Tottenham - August 13

After a tricky opener at Everton, Chelsea face Tottenham in their first Stamford Bridge game of the campaign. It will mean Antonio Conte again returning to the club where he was a Premier League and FA Cup winner, looking to give Spurs an early season lift.

Chelsea will be a team to keep close tabs on in the post-Abramovich era, and last season's third-placed finishers will have an early examination of their credentials against the side who snatched fourth in May. These two are likely to be battling to finish as London's top team again, but could either finish any higher than third in the table this time around?

Newcastle United v Manchester City - August 20

Are Newcastle United going to pose any threat to the top six? This fixture might give us an indication.

Eddie Howe's side will have home advantage against the champions, and the Saudi-backed Magpies, thrashed 5-0 and 4-0 by City last season, must show greater defiance this time around.

Manchester United v Liverpool - August 20

Games against Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford will mark Erik ten Hag's introduction to the Premier League. Going on last season's evidence, there is no guarantee United will breeze through those assignments, but they will hope to have banked six points by the time they encounter Liverpool, their fiercest rivals.

Jurgen Klopp's side walloped United 5-0 and 4-0 in the 2021-22 campaign, underlining the gulf in class between the two squads, and Ten Hag surely cannot afford such a similar morale-draining outcome this time.

Everton v Liverpool - September 3

Derby day. Will Frank Lampard's Everton kick on after the relief of avoiding relegation last term, or can Klopp's Reds follow last season's league double with another win at Goodison Park?

Anything other than a Liverpool victory would be a major surprise, of course, as Lampard battles to make his mark on Merseyside.

Manchester City v Tottenham - September 10

Sandwiched between the first two rounds of Champions League group games, this cheeky little number is one to watch. Tottenham did the league double over City last season, inflicting two of their three defeats in the competition.

Pep Guardiola will know what damage the likes of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski can inflict, but can he stop those lethal Spurs counter-attacks this time?

Derby double: Arsenal v Tottenham, Manchester City v Manchester United - October 1

This promises to be quite some weekend, with north London and Manchester bragging rights up for grabs. Tottenham's 3-0 win over Arsenal in May paved the way for Spurs to pip their neighbours to a place in the Champions League, which left the Gunners hurting. In the north west, United barely threatened a top-four finish last term, and it is hard to see how Ten Hag mounts any sort of challenge to City's supremacy in the new campaign.

There was a 35-point gap between the sides at the end of the season, and it is essential that United at least get much closer. Games such as these can be catalysts for change, or they can be an opportunity for a side such as City to show their teeth and inflict more damage. Both return games are scheduled for January 14.

Liverpool v Manchester City - October 15

After the fourth round of Champions League group games in midweek, Liverpool and City switch their combined focus to this Anfield heavyweight battle. They are scheduled to play again on April 1, but this tussle on Merseyside provides the first Premier League meeting of the season between the title favourites.

Both league games finished 2-2 last season between these sides, while Liverpool sank City's hopes in the FA Cup semi-finals, only to miss out on the Premier League title after final-day high drama.

Could new recruits Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez make their mark on the hottest fixture on the calendar?

Nottingham Forest v Liverpool - October 22

A welcome return to the top-flight calendar for a classic fixture. Forest were a major force in the English game for many years, and a 23-year absence from the Premier League has made the heart grow fonder.

This City Ground game will stir up memories of Brian Clough's sides going head-to-head with those of Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish, and the classic games that ensued. Forest are unlikely to threaten the top six in the new campaign, but their presence among the elite again under Steve Cooper's assured leadership could see them serve up one or two big shocks.

Chelsea v Manchester City - January 2

The World Cup puts the Premier League campaign on hold for six weeks in mid-season, with a December 26 resumption soon followed by this meaty match-up.

By this point of the season, it should be reasonably clear which direction these teams are heading towards, and there can be no Qatar 2022 hangover for the players.

City took 1-0 wins home and away last season when these sides met in the league. Their second clash of the 2022-23 campaign comes on the penultimate weekend, pencilled in for May 20, and that could turn out to be even more significant than this contest.

Arsenal v Manchester United - January 21

Nobody expects Arsenal or United to win the Premier League this season. The Gunners have not lifted the trophy since their 2003-04 'Invincibles' season, while United were last champions in 2012-13.

Expect a barren decade in the competition to be completed for the Red Devils, but also expect an improvement under Ten Hag's leadership. This fixture carries a slowly diminishing cachet, but the prospect of Mikel Arteta and Ten Hag jostling for position in and around the Champions League places means it could be a massive moment in the season for these flagging yet still proud giants. They also meet in early September, but the stakes will be higher come this contest.

Manchester City will start their Premier League title defence at West Ham, while Frank Lampard will host his former club Chelsea with Everton on the opening weekend.

City pipped Liverpool to their fourth English top-flight crown under Pep Guardiola and there will be significant interest around their August 7 opener at London Stadium, where new signing Erling Haaland could make his debut after arriving from Borussia Dortmund.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will aim to mount another title charge in the 2022-23 campaign and they go to newly promoted Fulham for their first game.

Chelsea eased into third place last term and their first league game of the Todd Boehly era sees them travel to face Blues great Lampard at Everton, who narrowly avoided relegation to maintain their top-flight status.

Manchester United finished in a disappointing sixth last campaign, with a 4-0 thrashing at Brighton and Hove Albion a low point, and they host the Seagulls in what will be Erik ten Hag's first game in charge.

Arsenal will visit Crystal Palace on August 5 as the season's opening game, while promoted side Bournemouth are at home to Aston Villa.

Antonio Conte's Tottenham sneaked into the Champions League last season and open their campaign at home to Southampton, with Nottingham Forest playing their first top-flight fixture in 23 years away at Newcastle United, who climbed out the relegation zone under Eddie Howe in the previous term.

Testing opening for Liverpool, Guardiola faces late Blues clash

Liverpool were in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple for much of the 2021-22 season, but fell short and ended up with just the EFL Cup and FA Cup crowns to their name.

Klopp's side will be tested in the opening weeks of the season, facing four – United, Chelsea, City and Arsenal – of the traditional 'big six' sides in the first 11 games, alongside a Merseyside derby at Everton on September 9.

The first clash between United and Liverpool will come just three matchdays into the season, with the Reds visiting Old Trafford on August 20.

Liverpool then head Chelsea and Arsenal either side of the late September international break, with champions City travelling to Anfield just a week after the Gunners trip.

Supporters in Manchester will eagerly await October 1 for the first meeting between United and City at Etihad Stadium, while the first north London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal comes on the same day.

The Premier League title race went down to the wire last campaign, and City could face a tough task if it does so again as they host Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea in an enticing clash on the penultimate weekend.

Premier League opening weekend fixtures:

Crystal Palace v Arsenal
Bournemouth v Aston Villa
Everton v Chelsea
Fulham v Liverpool
Leeds United v Wolves
Leicester City v Brentford
Newcastle United v Nottingham Forest
Tottenham v Southampton
Manchester United v Brighton and Hove Albion
West Ham v Manchester City

Darwin Nunez is "more flexible" than Erling Haaland and an ideal fit for Liverpool, according to one of his former coaches.

Nunez joined Liverpool from Benfica on Tuesday, with the Lisbon club confirming the fee to be £64million (€75m), and a further £21.4m (€25m) in potential add-ons.

The Uruguayan striker netted 34 times in 41 games in all competitions for Benfica last season.

Meanwhile, Manchester City - who pipped Liverpool by one point in a compelling Premier League title race last month - clinched the signing of Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund after triggering his release clause of a reported £51.2m (€60m).

Haaland scored a monstrous 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund during two-and-a-half seasons in the Bundesliga, and talk has already begun about whether he or Nunez will do better in English football.

Former Almeria assistant manager David Badia worked with Nunez during the 2019-20 season in the Spanish second tier, with the forward netting 16 goals in 32 league games before a €24m move to Benfica.

In an exclusive interview with Stats Perform, Badia said he believes Nunez is a different type of player to Haaland, and backed him to settle quickly into Liverpool's system.

"I don't want to say they are similar because I think Darwin could be maybe a little bit more flexible," he said. "He's a player that can change the direction a little bit faster than Haaland.

"Maybe Haaland is a little bit more powerful and when he starts [running] he breaks everything in front of him, but I think that [Nunez] can change direction a bit faster and, for the style that Liverpool has, I think he is more of a fit."

Badia, who has been managing in Cyprus since leaving Almeria in January 2021, believes Nunez could be in the conversation for the Ballon d'Or during his time at Anfield.

"I think that nobody spoke about Darwin," he said regarding whether he can challenge Haaland and Kylian Mbappe in future for the prestigious award. 

"I mean, maybe in the publicity, he has not [got] the brand that the other two have.

"It's going to be a very clever move from Liverpool, because it's looked like everybody was looking [at] Haaland... nobody was saying nothing about Darwin.

"But I know him, I follow him, and I knew that the [club] who is going to take him is going to [get a] cheaper [deal]."

Badia also outlined his first impressions of Nunez when he joined Almeria from Penarol in 2019, when he worked as an assistant to then-head coach and former Real Madrid midfielder, Guti.

"In a few training sessions that we took... we could see that [Nunez] had something special. We saw that the Almeria was [too] small for him," Badia added.

"Everything that he was doing was on another level. The speed of execution was completely [different] compared to the rest of the players of the league, not only in the team of the league of the second division in Spain.

"He was a really important player for the team, also his team-mates knew that he was going to leave earlier, that he was not going to stay longer because everybody was watching him in the stands.

"We knew that this team is coming, the other team is coming, and then in the end we knew that in a short period he was going to leave and he was going to go on his way."

Darwin Nunez has similar characteristics to former Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, but may actually be even faster, according to one of the Uruguayan's former coaches.

Nunez's move from Benfica to Liverpool was confirmed on Tuesday, with the Portuguese club revealing the fee to be £64million (€75m), with a further £21.4m (€25m) in potential add-ons.

The 22-year-old enjoyed a prolific 2021-22 season, finding the net 34 times in 41 games in all competitions.

Torres, who played for Liverpool between 2007 and 2011, scored 81 goals in 142 appearances for the Reds before making a big-money move to rivals Chelsea, and at his peak was considered one of the best strikers in the world.

Comparisons have been made between Nunez and Torres, with similar statures and explosiveness, and former Almeria assistant manager David Badia believes the former is actually the quicker of the two.

Badia worked with Nunez during the 2019-20 season in the Spanish second tier, with the striker bagging 16 goals in 32 league games for Almeria before a €24m move to Benfica.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Badia said of the comparison with Torres: "Of course, Fernando is a Spanish guy, [so] I will protect him, but I think that Darwin is a little bit faster than him.

"When Darwin has the possession of the ball, he is a very good player, he can control the ball, he can protect the ball.

"Maybe Fernando [was] doing the same actions at a little bit lower speed, that also is good because you can do many other things, but in my opinion, Darwin can do the plays faster."

Badia also outlined Nunez's characteristics that should make him an ideal fit in Jurgen Klopp's side.

He added: "I think it's the combination of many things.

"It's not only just one thing that he has, but if I have to say something among the others - it's the change of the pace that he has, and the speed that he can maintain over a long distance.

"He can keep this speed for 30, 35, 40 metres, and then when he arrives at the end of a move he can finish it inside the box."

Klopp regularly refers to his players as "mentality monsters", and Badia is certain Nunez will fit in at Anfield in that respect as well, pointing out how the player came back from serious knee issues early on in his career.

"One hundred percent [he has the mentality]," he added. "I think he had one of the worst injuries that a player can have when he was 16 or 17 years old. And after that he became stronger.

"It's very important when a player has these injuries that he can develop himself and keep working to have this character, this mentality.

"I think the mentality he has, the ambition he has and the focus he is having through the years, he is working for that.

"If there is one coach that can improve the players, that one is the coach of Liverpool [Klopp]. In the end, I think he's in one of the best scenarios, or maybe the best team in the world right now where he can keep improving, and I think that he still has a long way to improve."

The midfield appears to be the primary business agenda for Manchester United this off-season amid Erik ten Hag's rebuild.

With Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata already leaving Old Trafford this off-season, incoming transfers in the centre of the park appear a certainty.

As such, Ten Hag reportedly has his eyes on midfielders who are known quantities to him.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD NOT VEERING FROM DE JONG PLANS

Frenkie de Jong appears to be Manchester United's primary transfer target, according to the Daily Mail.

While Donny van de Beek is set to return and others are linked to Old Trafford, it is understood talks are continuing between the Red Devils and Barcelona.

Though no formal bid has placed for the 25-year-old, he is rated at £70million (€80.4m) despite failing to provide a return on investment at the Camp Nou.

While De Jong appears intent to stay in Barcelona, he might have to be sacrificed to allow the cash-strapped club room to manoeuvre.

ROUND-UP

– Meanwhile, the Red Devils have made an offer to sign Christian Eriksen, according to the Athletic.

– Bayern Munich are preparing another offer for Sadio Mane after Liverpool rejected their previous two, Bild reports.

Richarlison has turned down an approach from Arsenal, with Tottenham and Chelsea his preferred destinations, per UOL Esporte.

Real Madrid are close to agreeing a new contract with Vinicius Junior, Goal is reporting.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says new signing Darwin Nunez has all the pieces that the Reds look for in a player but insists he is still a "work in progress".

The Reds confirmed the signing of the 22-year-old Uruguay international forward on a "long-term contract" from Benfica on Tuesday.

Nunez has joined for a reported fee of £64million (€75m), with a further £21.4m (€25m) in potential add-ons, in a move that is subject to the granting of a work permit and international clearance.

The striker joins after netting 48 goals in 85 appearances for Benfica, finishing as last season's Primeira Liga top scorer with 26 strikes. He also scored in both of Benfica's Champions League matches against Liverpool prompting excitement about his acquisition.

Klopp was delighted with his capture given his qualities to add to their forward options but stressed he was not the finished product yet.

"Darwin is a wonderful player, already really good but so much potential to get even better," Klopp told Liverpool's official website. "That’s why it's so exciting, to be honest. His age, his desire, his hunger to be even better than he currently is. His belief in our project and what we are looking to do as a club.

"He is as excited by us as we are by him, which makes for a great relationship, when you appreciate each other’s strengths. That is certainly the case here. He thinks we suit him and we believe he is the right fit for us.

"He has all the pieces we look for. He can set a tempo, he brings energy, he can threaten space from central and wide areas. He is aggressive and dynamic with his movement. He plays without fear, he's powerful. I know he will excite our supporters.

"It’s important we all recognise we are getting a 'work in progress' with Darwin. He recognises that himself, for sure. I love how much focus and humility he has.

"We have wonderful attacking options already and he becomes part of that now. So there is no pressure on him at all. He signs for a very long time and we intend to nurture his talent and see it grow."

Klopp hailed the club's ambition in completing the deal for Nunez, who had interest from several other clubs including Manchester United and Newcastle United.

"This is super news, really super news,” Klopp added. "I’m very grateful to everyone at the club for making it happen. We've shown decisiveness and ambition in equal measure."

Nunez said Liverpool's ambition and style of play were key reasons behind his decision to join the club.

"I've played against Liverpool and I've seen them in lots of games in the Champions League, and it's my style of play," he said.

"There are some great players here and I think it's going to suit my style of play here. As I say, I've watched quite a lot and it's a very big club and I hope I can give everything that I've got in order to help the team."

Nunez insisted he was not feeling any pressure to deliver instant rewards for the Reds, despite the lofty transfer figure. The Uruguayan referenced the same situation when he left Almeria to join Benfica for a club record €24m in 2020.

"I don't feel any added pressure at all," he said. "I went to Benfica and they asked me the same question then.

"I don't think a player has to feel this type of pressure, a player has to feel his own pressure that he puts on himself. I don't feel pressured by anything or anybody, I think the only pressure on a player comes from within to ensure things go well. So, no extra pressure.

"I think I must have been performing pretty well to find myself at Liverpool. I want to make sure that I keep performing well, keep on the right path and don't deviate from that path, while always remaining humble and keeping my feet on the ground."

Liverpool have confirmed the signing of Darwin Nunez from Benfica, with the striker agreeing a "long-term" contract at Anfield after finalising his departure from the Lisbon giants.

The Uruguayan has joined the Reds for a reported fee of £64million (€75m), with a further £21.4m (€25m) in potential add-ons.

Speaking to the club's official media channels after his arrival was officially confirmed on Tuesday, Nunez said: "I'm really happy and delighted to be here at Liverpool. It's a massive club.

"It's a pleasure to be here in Liverpool and I'm very happy to be a part of this great club.

"I've played against Liverpool and I've seen them in lots of games in the Champions League, and it's my style of play. There are some great players here and I think it’s going to suit my style of play here."

Nunez signed for Benfica in 2020 from Spanish second tier side Almeria for around €24m, going on to score 45 goals in 85 games, 61 of those starts, for the Primeira Liga club in all competitions.

The 22-year-old enjoyed a prolific 2021-22 season, finding the net 34 times in 41 games in all competitions.

He also scored six times in the Champions League, including both legs of Benfica's 6-4 quarter-final aggregate defeat to Liverpool.

Nunez's arrival would appear to make the potential exit of Sadio Mane more likely, with the Senegal attacker having been heavily linked with a move to Bayern Munich in recent weeks.

Jurgen Klopp will be hoping Nunez can add more firepower to his already potent front line and maintain his astonishing conversion rate of 27.2 per cent, which was the highest of all players with 55 or more non-penalty shots in Europe's top six leagues last season.

 

There has been a lot of talk about the money Liverpool are investing in Darwin Nunez.

The Uruguay striker arrives at Anfield for a fee that will likely end up surpassing their previous club record of £75million spent on Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in January 2018.

Benfica confirmed on Monday they had agreed to sell Nunez to Liverpool for an initial fee of £64m (€75m), with a further £21.4m (€25m) in add-ons. Liverpool provided their own confirmation on Tuesday.

The Merseyside club will likely be saying goodbye to a key player at the same time, though, with Sadio Mane being strongly linked with a move to Bayern Munich.

So can Nunez emulate what the Senegal star has been able to in his time at Liverpool, or can he even surpass it?

Stats Perform has taken a look at the 22-year-old to see what Liverpool might be getting for their cash.

Is Nunez a Mane replacement?

What appears to stand out above all else is that Nunez is being signed primarily to score goals.

He may not have hit the ground running at Benfica after making a €24m move from Almeria in September 2020, netting just six times in 29 Primeira Liga games (19 starts) in 2020-21, but he more than made up for it this season.

Nunez had an expected goals (xG) rating of 9.98 in his first season according to Opta, suggesting he was not scoring as many as he should, which he almost overcompensated for in 2021-22 by recording 26 goals in 28 league games (24 starts) from 18.4 xG.

By comparison, Mane – who is in the conversation for the 2022 Ballon d'Or – scored 16 goals in 34 Premier League appearances (32 starts) an xG figure remarkably similar to Nunez (18.3). So, while the chances that went their way were of a comparable value over the course of the season, the Uruguayan proved far more clinical.

The relative difference in quality between the top flights in England and Portugal must be taken into account, of course, but in the Champions League the duo also matched up well.

Nunez scored six goals from 10 appearances (six starts) from an xG of just 3.1, while Mane registered five goals from 13 games (11 starts) from an xG of 4.5. Once again, the 22-year-old proved a more dependable finisher of chances than the Senegal star.

Whether Nunez can translate this to English football remains to be seen, but there are other interesting parallels between the two players which indicate they are perhaps not as different as some appear to think.

In their respective leagues last season, Nunez and Mane also offered a similar degree of creativity. The former registered four assists from an expected assists (xA) total of 4.8, while Mane had two from 4.4 xA to his name, suggesting he was let down by poor finishing from his team-mates on occasion.

Both players have proven themselves to be comfortable running with the ball as well, attempting 86 dribbles each over the 2021-22 season, though Mane's success rate of 54.7 per cent was significantly better than Nunez's 45.4.

Of course, the chief difference between the pair is the fact former Southampton attacker Mane has mostly played off the left for Liverpool, whereas Nunez is primarily a centre forward.

That should not be an issue though, given the Reds addressed that side of the pitch only a few months ago by shopping in a familiar market.

Primeira Liga? Completed it, amigo

To the surprise of many, not least Liverpool, they had their hand forced at the end of the January transfer window and signed Luis Diaz from Porto, so it is a league they clearly know well.

Not that they hadn't already intended to buy Diaz, but reports suggested the plan was to do so at the end of the season, only for an unexpected advance from Tottenham to make them bring the transaction forward.

It proved a welcome necessity as Diaz hit the ground running and played a big part in Liverpool almost doing the unthinkable and winning an unprecedented quadruple.

However, with the Colombian taking the role on the left of the attack, Mane was asked to play in an unfamiliar central position for the remainder of the campaign, though broadly to impressive effect.

Nunez will be a slightly more natural fit in that central role, and like Diaz will be hoping the transition from the Primeira Liga to the Premier League is a relatively seamless one.

He already showed in his two performances against Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-finals this term that he can cut it against English opposition.

In the first leg in Lisbon, Jurgen Klopp's men ran out 3-1 winners, but Nunez scored the Benfica goal and played well enough that Virgil van Dijk recently listed him as one of his toughest ever opponents in an interview with Rio Ferdinand.

He arguably impressed more in the return leg at Anfield, when Van Dijk did not play. Nunez often pulled out to the left and stretched Liverpool's defence, and had it not been for their effective offside trap, could have had a hat-trick.

Nunez put the ball in the Liverpool net three times, but two were ruled out by the assistant referee as Benfica drew 3-3, losing 6-4 on aggregate.

He showed his force of personality in the final 10 minutes though as he also brought a tremendous save out of Alisson, and almost dragged his team back into a contest they had previously been well out of.

Can Liverpool adapt to Nunez?

Two of Liverpool's goals that night were scored by Roberto Firmino, who was excellent under the Anfield floodlights, but who has seen his previously key role in Liverpool's attack diminish in recent years.

It was appreciated that the way the Brazil international played in more of a 'false nine' role allowed Mane and Mohamed Salah to thrive, until the arrival of Diogo Jota in 2020, which signalled a slight move away from that as the former Wolves man increasingly played a role closer to that of a traditional striker in Klopp's system.

It oversimplifies Nunez to suggest he is an out and out number nine in the mould of an Erling Haaland. He drops deep and pulls wide similarly to smaller attackers, like the ones already at Liverpool in fact.

However, at 6ft 2in tall, he could also provide a weapon that will have the eyes of Liverpool full backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson lighting up, particularly the former.

No other defender in Europe's top five leagues created anything like Alexander-Arnold's 129 chances this season, with Robertson second on 90, ahead of Fiorentina's Cristiano Biraghi (89).

He also created the most 'big chances' this season (defined by Opta as a chance from which a goal would be expected) with 27, while only Hoffenheim's David Raum (226) and RB Leipzig's Angelino (211) provided more open play crosses than his 191.

On paper, Nunez has everything needed to succeed in the Premier League. Pace, power, skill, shooting accuracy and lovely hair.

The Darwin evolution puns are already wearing thin, for which we take partial responsibility, but it will be best for the player if he ignores all comparisons.

Nunez can simply be his own man.

Harry Kane says the arrivals of Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez in the Premier League will drive him to improve in an enticing Golden Boot race.

Kane has won three Golden Boot awards in the English top flight – in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2020-21 – and managed 17 goals this season as Tottenham qualified for the Champions League.

Spurs team-mate Son Heung-min shared the accolade for the most Premier League goals with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah this season, the pair scoring 23 goals each.

Jurgen Klopp looks set to add more firepower to his attack at Anfield, with Nunez close to joining Liverpool for an initial fee of £64million (€75m) from Benfica.

Nunez has scored 48 goals in 85 games for Benfica in all competitions and averaged 1.2 goals every 90 minutes in the Portuguese Primeira Liga last season.

Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola bolstered his own wealth of attacking options with the Premier League champions Manchester City by triggering Haaland's release clause at Borussia Dortmund.

The Norway international scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund since joining from Salzburg in January 2020, averaging a goal every 84 minutes across all competitions.

Kane cannot wait to compete with the duo next season as the Premier League adds more talismanic talent to their ranks.

 

"Look, I think the battle for the Golden Boot is always tough," Kane said at a pre-match news conference while on Nations League duty with England on Monday. 

"The Premier League has produced some top strikers around the world for a number of years now.

"I think every season I've been playing it's always been a tough battle to win that Golden Boot and it's no different.

"You expect the top strikers to want to play in the Premier League and with those two new signings, that's gonna be the case.

"I think it helps me as a player to have good competition, it drives me to improve and get better. I look forward to the challenge."

The build-up to Kane's 2021-22 campaign was filled with distraction as City tried and failed to secure the services of the England striker, attempting to replace the void left by Sergio Aguero at the Etihad Stadium.

Kane will likely have a smoother pre-season this time around and will look to utilise that to prepare for another campaign under Spurs head coach Antonio Conte.

 

"I try and focus on myself to begin with. Going into any season I have things I want to achieve and goals I want to reach," he added.

"I try not to focus too much on other players in that aspect, I can't control what they do.

"But what I will do is continue to work hard and improve and after this game have a nice break but then look forward to what will be a tough pre-season.

"And then I'll get ready for the new season as I have done for the last seven, eight years now."

Benfica have confirmed they have reached an agreement with Liverpool over the sale of Darwin Nunez.

Releasing a statement on their website early on Monday, Benfica confirmed the Uruguay striker will head to Anfield for a fee of £64million (€75m), with a further £21.4m (€25m) in potential add-ons.

Nunez signed for Benfica in 2020 from Spanish second tier side Almeria for around €24m and scored 45 goals in 85 games, 61 of those starts, for the Primeira Liga club in all competitions.

The club also notified that finalising the deal will now depend on the agreement of personal terms between Nunez, his representatives and Liverpool.

"It is further informed that the aforementioned agreement is dependent on the signing of the player's employment contract with Liverpool FC," a Benfica statement said.

The 22-year-old enjoyed a prolific 2021-22 season, finding the net 34 times in 41 games in all competitions.

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has been encouraged to sign for Bayern Munich by his Senegal coach Aliou Cisse.

Mane has been strongly linked with a move to the Bundesliga champions, with just 12 months left to run on his current contract at Anfield.

The Premier League club are said to have turned down two advances from Bayern for the 30-year-old, who has lifted six major trophies in as many seasons with the Reds.

The Senegal international hinted at wanting a move away when on international duty and Cisse believes Bayern represent the best option for Mane's career if he is to leave Liverpool.

"I tell my boys to try to work out the contract issues so that when their respective championships resume, they will have already found a base," Cisse told reporters.

"I heard about Sadio at Bayern. For me, it is a club that is of its standing. Bayern is intense, pressing football with a German coach.

"Sadio played in Salzburg in Austria, which is a border country, and that means he is not going into unknown territory.

"For me, the club where he will feel the best is Bayern."

 

Mane has scored 90 goals in 196 Premier League games for Liverpool since joining from Southampton in 2016.

Only Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy (104), team-mate Mohamed Salah (118) and Tottenham's Harry Kane (134) have managed more in the competition across that period.

Jurgen Klopp's side appear to be close to signing Benfica forward Darwin Nunez as a replacement for Mane.

But Bayern sports director Hasan Salihamidzic has suggested the German side are considering multiple options in the transfer market, with the Mane move far from a certainty.

Reece James has said people who question Trent Alexander-Arnold's abilities "don't really know the game".

The highly-rated Chelsea right-back is in direct competition with his Liverpool counterpart for a place in Gareth Southgate's England team ahead of the World Cup later this year.

Southgate has an embarrassment of riches to pick from on the right side of his defence, with Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier also a part of his current squad.

James, who started for the Three Lions in Saturday's 0-0 Nations League draw with Italy at Molineux, said that while he wants to be his country's first choice, he does not agree with those who criticise Alexander-Arnold's defensive qualities.

The Liverpool man has regularly received uncomplimentary reviews for his defending, with some blaming him for the goal scored by Vinicius Junior against the Reds in last month's Champions League final defeat against Real Madrid.

However, the 23-year-old recorded 17 clean sheets in 32 Premier League appearances last season, more than any of his England right-back rivals, even on a per 90 minutes basis.

"I'll try everything I can [to be first choice]," James said. "Only my performances will be able to prove what I can bring. In these games and building into next season I'll hopefully be able to show that I'm ready to play every game.

"I make mistakes as well. I gave away a penalty against Hungary, so we are both still learning our trade. 

"Liverpool have 95 per cent of the ball and he defends less than I have to. People have a lot of stuff to say and don't really know the game. Trent is a great player."

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