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Why Liverpool's Darwin Nunez needs a pick-me-up to stop cruel Andy Carroll comparisons

Liverpool's Darwin Nunez. Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt/Getty Images© Getty Images

Chris BascombeTelegraph.co.uk

There is a mural developing near the site of the new Anfield Road stand, celebrating the greatest strikers to wear the Liverpool jersey.

They form a gallery of past and present legends such as Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler, Luis Suarez and Mohamed Salah.

Positioned between Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane is a nod to the future: Darwin Nunez.

His inclusion so early into his Premier League career is charitable. Given the inauspicious start to his Anfield career, it would have been wiser to wait and see if he will ever deserve to be in such exalted company.

The anticipation of pre-season when the Premier League campaign was advertised as a shoot-out of the new No 9s at Manchester City and Liverpool already looks embarrassingly misguided.

The Community Shield, when Nunez’s late cameo overshadowed a rusty performance by Erling Haaland, looks like it happened in another era, any hope the South American would instantly and seamlessly blend into Jurgen Klopp’s formation dismantled while Haaland busies himself with demolishing Premier League records.

Klopp’s plan with Nunez radically changed within a few training sessions. The player was now being described as a work-in-progress who must fully acclimatise before being regularly unleashed.

That was not how the deal was sold or understood by the fans when Liverpool moved quickly to secure Nunez’s signature before confirming Sadio Mane’s sale to Bayern Munich.

So far, Nunez has played a combined 229 minutes of Premier League and Champions League football, thanks to the three-game ban he received for butting Crystal Palace’s Joachim Andersen.

But, more recently, Klopp has opted for the tried-and-trusted Firmino or Diogo Jota.

Indeed, there was a telling moment when Liverpool were drawing 2-2 with Brighton on Saturday as Klopp turned to his bench and the Kop chanted for the introduction of Jota, not Nunez.

The 23-year-old finally appeared in the 89th minute, by which time the search for a winner had seen the hosts hitting long and high balls in Nunez’s direction.

When Liverpool head to Arsenal on Sunday and welcome City the following week, it is almost inconceivable that Nunez will start ahead of Jota and Firmino if they are fit.

The Champions League games against Rangers – the first of which is tonight – may be Nunez’s best hope of starting.

Klopp understands the external pressure on his record signing, but offered no guarantees to Nunez until the time was right.

“Of course, the three-game ban didn’t help him,” Klopp said.

“Only yesterday we had a long talk with Pep Lijnders (the assistant manager) because my Portuguese is still not better. We just told him we are calm.

“It’s really important in our situation that he isn’t looking like he is worrying.

“He’s still adapting. New players come in and everybody talks about them and wants them to shine immediately. That happens from time to time (but) sometimes not.”

Nunez is not the first Klopp signing who has been held back before being trusted with a regular starting place.

Andrew Robertson made only three appearances in his first six months at Anfield before cementing his position at left-back. Likewise, Fabinho toiled in his early months.

Those who hit the ground running – such as Salah and Luis Diaz – were integrated into a fully functioning side.

“The team is not flying, and that makes it not easier for a striker,” Klopp said. “He (Nunez) didn’t start the game at the weekend because he came back from the internationals and had a hamstring problem.”

It is premature for Nunez to be placed alongside so many of the striking legends.

It would be equally wise to hold fire before doing what Brighton’s supporters did so brutally at the weekend – declaring the South American the next Andy Carroll.

But there is no doubt Nunez, and Liverpool, need a pick-me-up.

Liverpool v Rangers,

Live, RTÉ 2/BT Sport 2, 8.0

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