Michael Edwards was always going to be a tough act to follow at Anfield, but Julian Ward’s first summer in sole charge of Liverpool’s transfer business could become infinitely more complicated if Sadio Mane does, as expected, decide to seek pastures new in the coming weeks.
Mane hinted that he had already made his mind up over his future before Saturday night’s Champions League final defeat, with reports suggesting that the prolific attacker is being courted by Bayern Munich. Liverpool’s potent front-three of Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino has been the envy of many throughout Europe over the past few years but is now on the cusp of being dismantled – and Ward now has the unenviable task of rebuilding it.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a host of potential replacements have already been linked with Liverpool before anything concrete regarding Mane has even had a chance to materialise. According to Portuguese publication Correio da Manha, via SportWitness, Benfica hotshot Darwin Nunez is one name who is of interest to the Liverpool hierarchy – but pursuing a deal for the highly sought-after 22-year-old would come with its caveats.
For a start, Benfica’s demands for Nunez are said to be in excess of €100million (£85m); a sum that few will be able to stump up. While Liverpool would be able afford to such an outlay, a deal would be a pretty big shift from their usual transfer policy.
Although Jurgen Klopp and Edwards have spent big, big money in recent years, those type of outlays are usually reserved for players who are deemed the finished article, such as Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk. While Nunez – who has plundered 34 goals in all competitions in Portugal this year – has enjoyed a fine season, the ex-Almeira starlet is far from the finished article; and there are no guarantees that his form would translate from the Portuguese Primeira league to the Premier League.
There are are similarities between Nunez and Luis Diaz, who hit the ground running on Merseyside back in January. However, the transfer fee for Diaz was less than half the sum that has been mooted for Nunez – and the Colombian wasn’t signed specifically to replace one of the Reds’ untouchable trio from the get-go.
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Liverpool have garnered their reputation for being astute in the transfer market over a number of years and one bad deal wouldn’t exactly render their previous successes obsolete.
But shrewd transfer decisions have been the catalyst behind Liverpool’s recent revival, and it’s clear that there’s no margin for error right now at the top of the Premier League. The Reds could be set back years on the pitch if they start getting the big calls in the transfer market wrong; particularly when it comes to replacing someone as pivotal as Mane.
A host of clubs may be ready to snare Nunez this summer, but the Benfica starlet could prove to be a gamble that Ward and the Liverpool hierarchy simply cannot afford to make right now.