Is Darwin Nunez on par with Erling Haaland? This question might seem blasphemous after what happened last season. One was labeled as a flop and another one won the Treble while being the top scorer in both, Premier League and Champions League, and is a Ballon d’Or favorite.
The ironic part is that the “flop” costed more than the “Blon d’Or favorite”, as Liverpool paid an initial €75 million plus a €25 million performance-related add ons for the Uruguayan, whereas Haaland costed only €51 million, although the fee can rise to €85 million.
However, it’s too early to say if Liverpool overpaid, as Nunez possesses some skills that may justify his staggering fee.
Who is more important for his team?
Nunez scored two late goals against Newcastle United at St James Park, securing a famous victory for the Reds. This one performance wont make him better than Haaland, that’s for sure, but at the same time a better player isn’t necessarily the more important player for his club.
Firstly, Manchester City right now and even in the last 7/8 years have been the better team. Guardiola’s City have had a better squad depth compared to that of Klopp’s Liverpool. Manchester City didn’t need Haaland to win the FA Cup and Premier League, as they won 4 without him.
Also, if Haaland is missing a game, Guardiola will replace him with World Cup winner Julian Alvarez, who is an exceptionally gifted forward, much similar to his Countrymen and former Man City forward, Kun Aguero. Foden, Grealish, and the newly acquired Jeremy Doku are also obvious difference makers.
On the other hand, Liverpool’s attacking option is quite tight and limited. With Mane and Firmino gone, it’s an aging Salah with Darwin, Diaz, Gakpo, and Jota. Not one apart from Salah is a guaranteed starter as well.
In recent times, especially in the Premier having a tall striker is really important, as we saw in the case of Haaland and City. In Liverpool’s case, Diaz is an out-and-out winger, Jota isn’t a heading threat for the opposition and Salah is an inverted winger.
As a result, Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo are the only ones with that towering presence in front of the Goal, Darwin is more of a goal threat whereas Gakpo is more comfortable with the ball, which is why Klopp started him in the middle of the park beside mac Allister and Dominic Szoboszlai.
In such a scenario the presence of a player like Darwin is quite important, and that is why the comparison isn’t useless, nor is it about who is better but who is more important for his team as he possesses some skills which might be even better than Haaland.
Stats comparison so far
According to stats, Darwin Nunez is a way better progressive carrier of the ball than Haaland. Also, a season heatmap of the Champions League shows that Darwin Nunez covers more ground than Haaland, as the latter’s position is more concentrated in the final third of the opposition box.
Scoring goals is the paramount facet for a striker. Haaland is miles ahead of everyone in this case. No doubt about that. However, Darwin isn’t a stranger to that as well.
During the 21/22 season, when both were playing for Dortmund and Benfica respectively, Nunez scored 26 goals, 4 more than Haaland, having played four matches more.
In that very season, Darwin exhibited a remarkable proficiency in “Take-ons completed” (39), a stark contrast to Haaland’s mere 13, underlining Darwin’s exceptional skill in moving past defenders.
In the ongoing season, Haaland has accumulated 3 goals within 260 minutes of playtime, while Nunez has scored 2 goals in just 41 minutes. This puts Haaland’s goal-scoring rate at approximately 1 goal every 138 minutes, whereas Nunez remarkably averages a goal every 20 minutes played.
A noteworthy instance is Haaland’s match against Sheffield United, where he had 6 touches during his 50 minutes on the field. In contrast, Nunez entered the game with only 20 minutes left, yet he displayed remarkable performance metrics, amassing 2+ expected goals at St. James’ Park, all while playing with a team reduced to 10 men.
Difference in playing style:
When it comes to their style of play, both are quite similar in nature. Although Haaland’s role in City is quite defined due to other players dictating the game, Nunez’s skills haven’t been harnessed much by Klopp.
Last season Liverpool lacked quality in midfield and Nunez had to be a part of the build-up play, something he hasn’t mastered yet.
However, this season with more quality in Liverpool’s midfield, Nunez’s ability of timed runs and first-touch finishing can be exploited more, just as Guardiola did with Haaland last season.
However, there is one big difference between their playing style, and that is Nunez’s flexibility to play in different positions.
While Haaland is a quintessential number 9, Nunez has been used by Klopp and Jorge Jesus as a left inside forward, as he possesses qualities to drift into the box and create space.
Who is faster, Darwin Nunez or Erling Haaland?
Lastly, who is faster among the two? The answer is Darwin Nunez.
The Uruguayan beats the Norwegian by just a margin as Nunez’s highest recorded speed is 36.53 km/h compared to the Haaland’s 36.22 km/h.
To give an instance of how fast it is, Darwin’s recorded speed is the fifth highest in PL history, while Haaland’s Man City teammate, Kyle Walker is at the top, with a recorded speed of 37.31 km/h.
This gives both, Man City and Liverpool, an insane advantage during a counterattacking situation as opposition players have to compete with the pace of Nunez and Haaland.
To sum it up, Darwin needs to do a lot of hard work in order to draw comparisons with Haaland, let alone win it. Haaland is one of the best players in the world and only Mbappe is a worthy competitor.
However, Nunez’s potential cannot be overlooked. One bad season doesn’t prove anything and with the qualities he’s got, he can be the difference maker as he was against Newcastle United.