Who is Darwin Núñez, Europe's most sought-after striker?
Darwin Núñez Ribeiro has stood out among contemporary European top strikers, despite a recent dearth of quality in the footballing department, which has led many coaches to convert to systems that use false strikers.
Born on June 24th, 1999, in Artigas, Uruguay, he began his fantastic career with Peñarol's youth academy, where he earned his senior debut in 2017 at age of 16.
He only needed
Despite struggling for game time in the very competitive Peñarol side, he only needed 14 games in three seasons to attract the interest of top European clubs, eventually signing a five-year deal with Spanish Segunda División club UD Almera.
Moving to Spain, Núñez got off to a fine start in his debut and only season with Almería, finishing as the league's fourth-top scorer with 16 goals and the fifth player with the highest shots on target (39 shots).
His outstanding performance gained the attention of S.L. Benfica, who signed him for a club-record sum of €24 million to replace first-choice striker, Haris Seferović.
Image of Benfica's gifted striker, Darwin Núñez
In his early door in Portugal, he suffered from COVID-19 infection and injury setbacks but was able to repay Benfica's faith in him with five goals and 10 assists, making him the second player with the most assists that season.
In the current season, the brilliant Uruguayan has justified why Benfica had to pay such a hefty price for a seemingly one-season wonder, scoring 25 goals in 25 league games, the most by any player.
With six goals in his first ten matches in the Champions League, his exceptional performances and contribution to Benfica's success have put him among the pantheon of the best strikers in Europe owing to his potential.
In total, the 22-year-old striker has 34 goals and three assists in 41 appearances for Benfica in all competitions, which has placed him among Europe's most sought-after strikers.
Darwin Núñez's unique playing style
Despite a lack of confidence in the new generation of strikers that has made many top European managers embrace a new style of play without a center-forward in recent seasons, Darwin Núñez is a true number nine whose qualities highlight the importance of a natural center-forward.
Manchester City's manager, Pep Guardiola, Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, and Thomas Tuchel of Chelsea are among the managers that have adopted the strange pattern of using a false striker on multiple occasions, especially in crucial matches.
Darwin Núñez's excellent creativity, incredible moves, ability to strike from different angles, excellent decision making, and deep tackles that he uses to support his teammates, akin to the old-school strikers like Karim Benzema, Kun Aguero, and others, have made him one of the most exceptional options in tactical approaches like this.
Núñez, like Benzema, posses great moves of a playmaker when in an attacking zone, which has earned him 86 percent of progressive carries, an amazing rating higher than Erling Haaland, Romelu Lukaku, and Patrik Schick, who have 59, 39, and 32 progressive carries, respectively.
One of the mouth-watering attributes that have set him apart from certain strikers is his 76 percent tackle rate, a rare success rate for a center-forward.
Núñez's ability to play outside the box and in between lines to look for meadows with his dribbling accuracy of 86 percent has piqued the curiosity of European elite clubs, who consider him a potential star.
Image of Benfica's gifted striker, Darwin Núñez
Top European clubs vying for Darwin Núñez's signature
Since last season, Núñez has drawn the attention of several prominent European clubs, including Arsenal, who were looking for a striker after failing to obtain the services of Dusan Vlahovic and being unable to find Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's replacement.
Although the Premier League club were eager to match his €45 million release clause, Benfica were unwilling to release the striker after only one season at Estádio da Luz.
His improved performances this season attracted Manchester United, who have entered the race for the Uruguayan striker ahead of the forthcoming summer transfer window, with the gifted attacker now valued at €75 to €80 million, nearly double his previous season's value.
The Old Trafford faithful are expected to appoint Erik Ten Hag of Ajax as their new manager, and Núñez has been highlighted as a key target in their rebuilding quest, knowing too well that he has a lot of potential that can still be improved.
Edinson Cavani is expected to leave Old Trafford on a free transfer at the end of the season, while Anthony Martial's ability to lead the team's attack remains shrouded in doubt.
Cristiano Ronaldo's future at Manchester United is also in doubt, especially with UCL football seemingly not forthcoming and the Red Devils are on the lookout for the right player to lead the attack at Old Trafford.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, who will be without a senior striker when Alexandre Lacazette leaves at the end of the season, might reignite his interest in the 22-year-old striker and compete with Manchester United for his services.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, on the other hand, may decide to hunt for a new striker at the end of the season as Romelu Lukaku has struggled to reclaim his striking instinct since his big-money return to Stamford Bridge.
Despite Tuchel's backing of Lukaku's poor performances, the Belgium striker is being linked with a return to Inter Milan after failing to make Chelsea's starting eleven and admitting his dissatisfaction at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues have now lined up among the top European teams seeking Darwin Núñez's transfer, but they will face fierce battles from their rivals.