Transfer windows for Liverpool fans used to be a real mixed bag. Sometimes a bargain would be snapped up. But other times it seemed a clear case of paying way over the odds.
That contrast was never more stark than in January 2011. Remarkably, the Reds were able to bring in Luis Suarez for a fee of just £22.8m from Ajax. The Uruguayan was just 24 and had already played in a World Cup finals. It looked a coup.
But just above those excited wide eyes were raised eyebrows. Why? Liverpool had also forked out £35m on Andy Carroll.
Carroll was a handful and all that but was he a Liverpool player? And, despite being only 22, was there really enough potential there to think he would dramatically improve upon his basic offerings of being great in the air and possessing a good hit with his left foot?
Suarez quickly won over the Liverpool fans despite some initial wastefulness in front of goal. That said, the profligacy was often after he’d carved out the chance himself.
Before long, it was pretty obvious LFC had a world-class striker on their hands, one who almost dragged them over the line in the 2013/14 title race.
But Carroll never really got going at all. The early reservations didn’t go away and injuries further limited his impact. Brendan Rodgers didn’t fancy him and he was moved on.
Suarez and Carroll are particularly relevant due to the current transfer conversations amongst Liverpool fans over Benfica target Darwin Nunez.
The debate:Is potential new £85m striker a Suarez or a Carroll?
Some say Suarez. He’s Uruguayan. He’s skilful. He scores loads of goals.
Others say Carroll. He’s tall. He has a ponytail/man bun. He’s not actually that skilful.
To be fair, there is more nuance than that but it’s easy to see why those former Anfield frontmen are being used as comparison.
Nunez passed Liverpool audition in Champions League
Reds supporters have had more than just YouTube to assess Nunez’s talents after Liverpool played Benfica twice in the last eight of this season’s Champions League.
Liverpool won the first leg in Portugal 3-1, with veteran Liverpool journalist Tony Evans giving Nunez a rating of ‘7’. In the second leg at Anfield, Nunez netted again, this time in a 3-3 draw.
That was worth an ‘8’ from Evans, who wrote: “The Uruguayan scored one goal and had two more disallowed for offside. He threatened with another two shots and worried the defence all night.”
No wonder, Klopp’s head was turned.
“An extremely good looking boy, and a decent player as well,” said the German with a smile before giving a more in-depth analysis.
“Really good, really good. I knew it before but he played pretty much in front of me. Physically strong, quick, was calm with his finish. Really good. If he stays healthy, it’s a big career ahead of him.”
Darwin Nunez by the numbers
So what about the numbers?
Nunez scored 26 goals from 28 league matches in the Portuguese top flight last season and, notably, that was way above his Expected Goals (xG) tally of 15.73, according to infogol.
In the season before, he’d netted just six times in 19 games, 10 of those as a sub. But, in addition, he provided nine assists. Nunez also scored six times in 10 matches in last season’s Champions League.
Clearly he’s a player.
But £85m? Liverpool supporters have become rather spoiled in the transfer market in recent seasons, the now departed Michael Edwards helping them pull off a series of coups.
The fees paid for Luis Diaz (£37m) and Ibrahima Konate (£36m) already look complete bargains. Going further back, £41m for Diogo Jota and £7m for Takumi Minamino was also smart work.
So it’s hard not to think that Liverpool are paying absolute top dollar for Nunez at that price. If voting on who has got the better deal, most would say Benfica. For now at least.
Big-money signing could be worth it
But a delve into recent history suggests it could be worth it.
The Reds spent big on Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker to rebuild their backline, that business being funded largely by Philippe Coutinho’s move to Barcelona. Liverpool have won every trophy possible since the duo’s arrival.
And going back to 2011, the money spent on Suarez and Carroll was mostly clawed back by the £50m sale of Fernando Torres to Chelsea. Torres never hit the heights at Stamford Bridge but Suarez went on to become one of the best players in Liverpool’s history.
Now, perhaps quicker than expected, it’s the turn of the current forward line to be revamped. Sadio Mane looks to be going, Mohamed Salah may only be around for one more season and Roberto Firmino has become more of a squad player.
If Liverpool pull the trigger on the Benfica striker, Nunez and Diaz would have been purchased for a combined £122m. The figure of £61m each then doesn’t look crazy and they’ll look to recuperate a chunk of that with the sale of Mane and other squad players.
And for a side which has reached three of the last five Champions League finals, going big on one of Europe’s hottest properties seems a natural enough move.
Klopp’s signings have an excellent track record overall but, with just one great season under his belt, it’s no surprise that many Reds supporters are having the Nunez debate.
Only time will tell if he turns out to be a Suarez or a Carroll.