Van Dijk claims £64m Liverpool star is showing his ‘potential and quality’

Virgil van Dijk reckons £64m striker Darwin Nunez is beginning to realise the potential which persuaded Liverpool to buy him from Benfica.

The Uruguay international endured a rough start to life at Anfield and although he scored 16 goals, there was the feeling that he underperformed during his debut season.

He has already played a significant role for Liverpool this term. He scored two late goals as a substitute to beat Newcastle, and with Mohamed Salah on the bench, he took the responsibility into his own hands by equalising through a penalty in their eventual 3-1 Europa League victory over LASK in Austria.

Nunez has three goals and two assists this season but his all-round influence has been felt more than just from that contribution.

The Uruguayan, who had missed a couple of earlier chances but was denied a certain goal by a brilliant point-blank save by goalkeeper Tobias Lawal in the first half, also played a role in the second goal with his hold-up play on the halfway line.

Liverpool’s captain believes the 24-year-old is developing into the striker they hoped they were getting when they paid Benfica an initial £64million, which could rise to £85m, last summer.

“Everyone has a role to play whether you start or not. Everyone has now seen the potential and the quality he has.

“Against LASK Darwin was important with the goal. Long may it continue, and with the other boys as well.

“Up front, the competition is quite good. They all have to push each other and it’s good to see.”

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One of those “other boys” – quite literally – was Ben Doak who became Liverpool’s fourth-youngest European player with his first start at the age of 17 years and 314 days.

The young Scot was given a run in Salah’s right-wing position and showed flashes of his talent despite being starved of opportunities in a poor first-half performance by the team.

“It was a big night for him,” added Van Dijk. “It was never going to be easy, it was a difficult pitch, but he could have set up at least two goals in the first half where he went past his man like no one was there but unfortunately nobody was on the end of it.

“I am pleased for him and I’m also very excited for him and the future that’s coming.

“You’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, if you watch closely it’s a fantastic group to be part of.

“We have a lot of quality, a lot of younger players, players who are getting new roles and they are enjoying that as well.

“But at the end of the day football is about results. Everybody wants to play their best football each and every game, but sometimes you have to find a way, like we did at Wolves (coming back from conceding first again to win 3-1).

“On Thursday it was after we conceded a set-piece, we showed that we stayed calm and found a way as well.”

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