Is Darwin Núñez the next Big Thing?

by Pranav Mohan · Contracts & Free Agency

Overview

Darwin Núñez has been the talk of the town recently. With both Liverpool and Manchester United interested in him, he seems to be the real deal. The Uruguayan international is 22 years old, 187 centimeters tall, right-footed, and plays as a center-forward for the Portuguese club, SL Benfica. He scored six goals in the Champions League this season at a rate of 0.88 per 90 minutes. Good performances in the UCL against top clubs like Liverpool put him on the transfer shortlist of many big clubs across Europe.

Key Metrics

Expected Goals (xG)

It measures the quality of a chance (shot) by calculating the likelihood that it will be scored from a particular position on the pitch during a particular phase of play. The higher the xG of a shot, the higher the probability that it will be scored. Non-Penalty xG accounts for every shot other than penalty kicks.

Open-Play Expected assists (OPxA)

It measures the likelihood that a given pass (excluding passes from set-pieces) will become a goal assist.

He was a consistent performer for Benfica in the Primeira Liga this season. In fact, he was one of the best players in the league. The forward scored 26 goals in the league this season, averaging more than one goal per 90 minutes.

Darwin Nunez Shot Map

The image above shows the locations of every shot taken by Nunez in the league this season.

The map above shows the locations of all shots he took this season in the Primeira Liga (the red ones depict goals while the other depict unsuccessful shots, dot size represents the quality of the shot). One key observation we can make from his shot map:

  • Darwin takes very few low quality shots. (The smaller the dot, the lesser the xG which means lesser the probability of the shot being a goal)

Heat Map

As can be seen on the map, he takes many high-quality shots, which is a very valuable quality for a forward. His conversion rate was 27-percent for non-penalty shots. The only Premier League forwards with an equal or better conversion rate are Jamie Vardy (28-percent) and Son Heung-Min (27-percent).

Darwin Nunez Heatmap

The image shows the heatmap of all the shots taken by Darwin Nunez in the league.

It is also very rare to find a forward who averages 0.20 non-penalty expected goals per shot. It is something that sets Núñez apart from other forwards in his age category.

Besides being a threat in front of the goal, he was also a good creator for Benfica. He averaged 0.23 open-play expected assists per 90 in the league this season, which is the No. 2 highest among forwards playing in the league and No. 4 highest overall.

One of the drawbacks to his game is his inconsistency in link-up play. He had a passing accuracy of only 67.1-percent this season, which is very poor for any player.

Conclusion

The Uruguayan forward is just 22 years of age and his consistency in the Primeira Liga has attracted several top clubs. He is a clinical finisher who is a huge threat inside the box. His height and physique give him an advantage in aerial duels as well as ground duels. The only concern for the clubs would be his sloppy touches, inconsistent passing, and his high transfer fee. According to reports, Benfica would want around 80 million euros for him which in my opinion is more than he should cost. A price tag ranging between 40 million to 60 million would be more reasonable, and it would definitely bring more offers to the table. However, if an agreement can be made, Darwin Nunez could be the next big thing.

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