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Manchester United appear set on Goncalo Ramos as their next central striker, but Darwin Nunez’s performances at Liverpool may be the best gauge for the Red Devils on whether they should push ahead with their transfer plans. Ramos has enjoyed a barnstorming start to the new campaign, matching his tally for the whole of last season with eight goals in just 12 games.
The 21-year-old has largely benefitted from Nunez leaving for Liverpool in a deal worth up to £85million. Last year was Ramos’ first season in Benfica’s first team, but was limited to just 17 league starts with Nunez the main option through the middle.
While Ramos was watching from the sidelines, Nunez was establishing himself quickly as one of Europe’s most lethal frontmen. The Uruguayan played a huge role in helping Benfica reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League, where he scored in both legs against Liverpool as well as finding the net against Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax earlier in the competition.
It was on the European stage where Nunez began to attract attention from several elite clubs. If Ramos manages to emulate Nunez’s displays from last year then he may well earn himself a move to a bigger club in Europe with United seemingly at the front of the queue.
Erik ten Hag is short of options through the middle currently with both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial suffering knocks. Cristiano Ronaldo remained at the club despite continued speculation over his future, but his future is still uncertain beyond this season.
United will want a central striker that fits Ten Hag’s system and Ramos appears to be his top target for now. But Nunez may act as a cautionary tale for United depending on how his first season in the Premier League goes.
Nunez and Ramos have followed a similar trajectory with Benfica with both struggling to show their true capabilities in their first season at the club. The current Liverpool forward started just 19 league games in his first campaign, scoring six goals before taking over the mantle as their main striker and banged in goals for fun.
Benfica’s dominance in Liga Portugal certainly gives strikers in the club more freedom to showcase their talents up front with defences not at the level of that in the Premier League. Nunez has found that out so far in his first handful of games at Liverpool, failing to score in his last four matches.
He’s shown glimpses of what he can do and looks a threat every time Liverpool get the ball in the box. But United will no doubt be watching closely to see if Benfica’s former frontman can rediscover his best form in the Premier League to make their own decision on Ramos.
Ramos is said to be currently valued at £25m, but should he continue his current trajectory then Benfica could easily push that up closer to his release clause at £100m with other clubs bound to be interested. But signing someone unproven in one of Europe’s elite leagues always comes with risk and Nunez’s performances at Liverpool this year may well be the benchmark for whether United will push ahead with Ramos.
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