Darwin Núñez transfer proves Liverpool spend responsibly while rivals splurge

In the wake of Liverpool’s marquee signing of the summer, Daniel Zambartas addresses the elephant in the room regarding the Reds’ so-called ‘hypocrisy’ because they spent big on a target.

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Since even the first hint of a rumour emerged that Liverpool may spend big on Darwin Núñez, accusations of hypocrisy have been hurled at Jürgen Klopp. This is because an interview from six years ago in which he said he would never spend £100m on a player has resurfaced, and seemingly infuriated opposition fans.

There are a few issues here. First of all, the Benfica forward is said to be costing Liverpool £64m, not £100m. It is remarkable how this transfer has brought about an unprecedented and nonsensical integration of two different currencies. People are using the headline of £100m and putting it against a transfer of €100m.

Secondly, Klopp has since said that with the inflation of prices since the Neymar Jr transfer, he has changed his mind on this. A hypocrite does not admit to changing their mind – that doesn’t make them a very good hypocrite.

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There is also a strange obsession in insisting that the transfer fee is £85m, with Sky News using the headline “record breaking transfer”. The Uruguayan will cost the Reds £85m if he receives his performance-based bonuses. This of course means, if he is to cost £85m and the add-ons are to be paid, it will be because he was worth these additional costs. But it’s still wrong to describe the fee, flat out, as £85m, as this is not a certainty – Virgil van Dijk is Liverpool’s record signing, not Núñez.

The trope since this signing seems to be that Liverpool are no different to Manchester City when it comes to spending, but context is needed. Núñez will be Liverpool’s first signing with a fee of over £40m since Alisson in 2018. For perspective, that was 20 months before the pandemic started.

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Since then, Man City have bought seven players costing over £50m, including an astronomical £100m for Jack Grealish. They also signed Nathan Aké and Ferrán Torres for £40m each. They’ve consistently spent big every summer. Liverpool, on the other hand, signed no one (bar Adrián on a free) in the 2020 window. Last summer, they only bought Ibrahima Konaté for what’s looking like a steal at £36m.

The Reds have spare funds, and this is not even including past player sales and potential future sales this summer. Sadio Mané, Takumi Minamino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Neco Williams all seem to be likely departures, as well as the confirmed departure of Divock Origi. This will cover the fee of Liverpool’s new signing, or at least come very close. If Núñez is Liverpool’s only signing this summer, or even with the addition of Aberdeen full-back Calvin Ramsay, the likelihood is that the Reds will have spent less overall than many Premier League clubs.

People should know better by now than to accuse Liverpool of being huge spenders. Their business, rather, is very shrewd. They refuse to sell their assets for low prices – for example, they received £40m in total for the sales of Rhian Brewster and Dominic Solanke. They are then very selective with who they bring in. Arguably none of Liverpool’s big signings, in this regime, have flopped. Maybe Núñez will be the first – no-one can tell for sure – but it seems very unlikely, given the Reds’ track record.

For that reason, one should be very careful before labelling him as overpriced or a waste of money. People called Mohamed Salah a Chelsea flop, and fans were laughing at Liverpool when they signed van Dijk. We all remember those unfortunate quotes regarding Lewis Dunk and Juan Cuadrado. Liverpool only spend big when they’re absolutely sure – and it is still nowhere near what Man City spent on Jack Grealish, who one could quite easily say is not worth £100m. He has certainly not proven it so far.

And lastly, on a similar note, comparisons to Erling Haaland in terms of “Haaland was cheaper” are nonsensical as the Norwegian had a release clause. If City had had to negotiate, they would likely have been looking at a similar fee to Grealish, and may have even had to smash their own transfer record yet again.

Manchester City operate as a club funded by a country with oil reserves, whereas Liverpool operate as a shrewd, smart business which takes great care in its spending. This transfer does not change that – the fact the Reds are willing to spend so much money on this player is indicative of his quality and potential, not of Liverpool’s financial incompetence or hypocrisy.


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Daniel Zambartas

Journalism student at Liverpool John Moores University

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