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Darwin Nunez cost Liverpool ‘less’ than some may think as £147m point missed

Darwin Nunez’s fee is being questioned by some detractors – but a look at similarly priced players from the past puts the Liverpool forward’s value in proper context.


In 2022, the hot take is king. There is an endless rush to be the first to pass judgment on anything, and when combined with a desire to be seen to be correct on the internet, it can all prove fatal to rational assessment.


We are seeing this with Darwin Nunez, who has experienced a rollercoaster start to his career with Liverpool. He was mocked for missing chances in pre-season, then scored in the Community Shield and in his Premier League debut – before being sent off against Crystal Palace.


The Uruguayan hasn’t scored since returning from suspension, but the fact remains he has only had 259 competitive minutes for the Reds. This hasn’t stopped some people from writing him off as a big money ‘flop’ already, even though he has had little opportunity to prove himself. If his goal or assist every 86 minutes is failing, then the impossibly high standards for succeeding would put peak-era Lionel Messi to shame anyway.


The pressure would not be as great had Nunez been secured cheaply. A fee of £64.1million, which could rise to around £85million with add-ons, makes him potentially the most expensive signing in Liverpool history. People inevitably demand results from the 23-year-old, and quickly.


Such expectations will not be helped by recent claims that the Reds overpaid for his signature. An article on The Athletic utilised data-derived player valuations from software platform Delphyx to try to establish which clubs had or hadn’t had a good summer in the transfer market.


It’s interesting that they highlighted former Liverpool target Aurelien Tchouameni as heavily overpriced, suggesting he was worth £33million when he cost Real Madrid over twice as much. However, Delphyx also noted that Nunez should have cost £35.2million according to their model. Add-ons or not, the Reds splashed out far more than that to sign the latest owner of their number 27 shirt.


So, have they been taken to the cleaners by Benfica? Rival fans appear certain this has been the case. But it may be more instructive to compare the Nunez fee with Premier League transfers from the past, rather than a valuation model, to establish what constitutes fair value.


Back in 2010, Paul Tomkins and Graeme Riley created the Transfer Price Index (TPI), which enables them to compare spending across the Premier League era. The average signing costs somewhere in the region of 30 times what it did in 1992, and even across shorter time frames it can have an enormous impact.


For instance, both Nunez (without add-ons) and Kevin De Bruyne are listed as costing their current clubs 75million euros. Yet it is seven years since Manchester City signed the Belgian, meaning his fee equates to around £147million in 2022 money, well over twice as much. If Liverpool get anything like the same level of return from their investment as City have had from De Bruyne, Nunez will look excellent value, no matter the cost.


We must also be realistic, very few players hit those heights. Even so, Nunez may be confident of offering more than Baba Rahman, Granit Xhaka and Tanguy Ndombele have given to Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham respectively. These three players, each signed by big clubs in different summers, all cost around Nunez’ initial fee once inflation is applied.


At the other end of the scale, if all add-ons are met then the Uruguayan will have enjoyed a successful time with the club. Jordan Henderson has too, and his fee from 2011 (£82m on TPI) is broadly the same amount. Prices which appear sky high now are not that different from more reasonable values from the past, when viewed against the averages from their respective transfer windows.


If you look at a list of the most expensive signings of all time, it is not awash with successful transfers. Perhaps Nunez is destined to appear on ‘most expensive flop’ lists of the future, there’s no guarantee that he will prove a hit with Liverpool.

But either way he needs to be given enough time for a fair assessment, and his fee must be put into proper context. The former Benfica forward has effectively cost less than many people might think.

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