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Liverpool’s record purchase, Darwin Nunez, seems like an odd duck in Jurgen Klopp’s bite

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DOMINIC KING: Darwin Nunez looks like Jürgen Klopp’s odd man out… the £85m forward has once again been reduced to a supporting role in Ajax’s win and his acclimatization is taking longer than some expected

The man who had arrived with hopes and dreams of becoming a hero cut an interesting figure on Liverpool’s most important night of the season.

Champions League matches at Anfield provide a platform for signings to propel themselves into the affections of this stadium. These occasions are important and can greatly enhance reputation, as Darwin Nunez would know.

It was here in April, when Benfica went after a hopeless goal in the quarter-finals, that the Uruguayan looked like he could find his way through the Liverpool defense whenever he wanted, scoring once in a 3-3 draw and a few others were eliminated offside disallowed.

Darwin Nunez was once again reduced to a supporting role for Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Ajax

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was so impressed with what he saw that night – not to mention the first leg in Lisbon – that his side invested £85million over the summer to become the new centerpiece of their team. Reading that back, you’d assume his starting spot was guaranteed.

Not so. Like last week in Naples, Klopp chose to leave Nunez with his substitutes, despite four changes following a performance he colorfully – and rightly – described as ‘a horror show’. Such decisions speak volumes about situations.

So when Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz came together, Nunez took his place in a seat behind Klopp, often staring out at the pitch as the action unfolded in front of him. At halftime, he took part in rondos with James Milner, Joe Gomez and Fabio Carvalho.

Klopp finally led Nunez into the action on the hour and he looked excited

Klopp finally led Nunez into the action on the hour and he looked excited

This is not a hasty judgment or suggestion that Liverpool have bought a dud in Nunez. The quality of clubs who wanted to take him from Benfica this summer and who tried in January tells you that he is a young man of talent and in flashes he has shown it in red.

But the fact that Klopp has used Nunez in supporting roles as Liverpool set out on a road they hope will lead them back to Istanbul next June tells you his acclimatization is taking longer than some expected.

Perhaps the early cameos against Manchester City in the Community Shield, when he won a penalty and then scored the decisive third goal in a 3-1 win, and against Fulham, when he scored again and set up another for Salah, hadn’t been particularly helpful. . .

After City’s win, the story became who would score more – Nunez or Erling Haaland – but the Norwegian’s stunningly smooth transition made this a non-match. How can it be when he is only fleeting on the field?

Klopp finally led Nunez into action on the hour here, sending him off with a hug and a slap on the back. He was enthusiastic and the way he rushed into the action made you wonder if he wasn’t over-hyped.

Nunez missed a big chance to become the hero of the evening, but wouldn't be discouraged

Nunez missed a big chance to become the hero of the night, but wouldn’t be discouraged

He soon became involved in the game and there was a moment where he could have made himself a hero, in the 82nd minute, when the ball sat up in front of him for The Kop, but his finish was rushed and he dragged his shot wide. from Remko Pasveer, the goalkeeper of Ajax.

Another opening came in the next offense, when he bulldozered his way to the byline and whizzed a cross into the six-yard box that dodged everyone. Still, he wouldn’t be discouraged and Nunez enjoyed waking up the supporters.

However, he won’t be really happy until the goals fly in.

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