Darwin Nunez should learn from Roberto Firmino at Liverpool after ‘redundant’ criticism

Nunez trains with Liverpool ahead of Crystal Palace friendly

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Darwin Nunez has only played a small part in two friendlies but already Liverpool’s record signing has found himself on the receiving end of some bitter criticism. Nunez featured for about 30 minutes in pre-season matches against Manchester United and Crystal Palace following his £85million transfer from Benfica and it’s fair to say they didn’t go to plan.

Nunez missed a few decent openings in the 4-0 defeat by United in Bangkok and was substituted after barely half an hour in the second half of the 2-0 win over Palace on Friday. That is, of course, a tiny sample size, but it hasn’t stopped a wave of criticism washing in from a section of supporters.

It appears to have wound up the 22-year-old striker, who reacted by uploading a series of images from the Palace game to Instagram with emojis of a finger-to-lips and a man pointing at his ear. On Twitter Nunez posted the same pictures with the caption “resilience”.

It’s hardly a perfect start for the Uruguayan, but, if he needed reassurance then he need look no further than team-mate Roberto Firmino. Nunez name-checked Firmino as one of the “monsters” he was looking forward to playing alongside upon his arrival and the Brazilian is an example of why patience truly is a virtue.

Firmino is now firmly established as a club legend. He is the choice of many fans when they name their favourite player and is considered an underrated player who has contributed much to Liverpool’s success.

But rewind back to his early days with the club and it wasn’t so rosy. Firmino joined Liverpool in the summer of 2015 for £29m – a fee which made him the club’s second most expensive player at the time, after Andy Carroll (£35m). Big things were therefore expected of him – and initially he didn’t deliver.

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Firmino failed to score in his first 13 appearances for Liverpool and bagged just one goal in his first 24. As we now know, the Brazilian is a superb player who is crucial to Jurgen Klopp’s system. But to begin with there were serious concerns about his suitability on Merseyside.

“Roberto Firmino is playing as if something is wrong, mentally and physically,” ex-Liverpool striker John Aldridge wrote in a column for the Liverpool Echo after a 2-0 defeat by Newcastle in December 2015. “He’s been absolutely redundant the last two games after such a great display at Man City.”

Around the same time, This Is Anfield wrote of his “languid, almost disinterested-looking style” and noted that he’d “been anonymous in games more often than he’s impressed.” That was a popular opinion at the time.

Firmino rallied to end his debut season with 11 goals in 49 appearances and has gone from strength to strength ever since, with 98 goals and 74 assists in 327 matches altogether for the club. Nunez may not contribute quite as much as the Brazilian, but he showed plenty of evidence in two seasons at Benfica that we will find the back of the net soon.

One person that is not remotely worried is Klopp. Asked on the weekend about the criticism Nunez has been receiving, Klopp said: “I’m not worried at all. The general judgement [on Nunez] is absolutely nil interest [to us]. It will be like this, and we all know it.

“It’s kind of a game or a joke for some people to pick out some situations where a player’s not doing well. That’s only a game from [fans of] other clubs, which is normal. Our fans probably do [the same] with signings of Manchester United. We cannot take this seriously.”

Nunez would be wise to listen to his manager and pay attention to Firmino’s Liverpool career arc as he aims to make a breakthrough at Liverpool.

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