Darwin Núñez is a prism. Everyone sees something different in him, from the next Liverpool star forward to a smaller Andy Carroll. Perhaps there is some truth to both sides, but maybe Núñez’s image is just a total projection from everyone.

Arriving in Anfield from Portugal in the summer, Núñez was supposed to be the next great Merseyside striker. Haaland and him were destined to reign terror on the backlines of the Prem.

It’s clear that nothing has really gone his way, from a terrible preseason to being suspended in his second game. His early struggles have been compounded by both fans and media, eager to see him fail. Even the smallest of mistakes is exemplified on a global scale, making it certain that immense pressure is on his shoulders. 

Photo: Sky Sport

To be totally honest, Núñez has been sub par, as he has struggled to deal with the style of the Prem and Liverpool’s tactics. However, rather than being allowed to work through these struggles, Núñez is placed under a microscope. Thus revealing the true meaning of being a sports fan in this modern era.

Núñez’s situation is truly fascinating and offers a glimpse into the cannibalistic nature of fandom. Will Núñez develop into a star or is he doomed to be a bust? Only time will tell, but he is a prism through which we see modern sports stars. 

From the moment he signed on the dotted line for Liverpool, Núñez’s Anfield dreams have been nightmares. City signing Haaland close to Núñez’s Liverpool announcement further put the pressure on the young striker.

Things started bad in the preseason for Núñez, as he missed some sitters in early matches. While he would eventually score in preseason and the Community Shield  final, the criticisms came strong.  

Despite scoring in his Prem debut, he would be suspended in the next game for headbutting a Palace defender. In subsequent matches,both in the Champions League and Prem, he has failed to score and  recorded only one assist. This downturn in form has also coincided with Liverpool struggling in all competitions.

Clearly Núñez isn’t producing the play that Liverpool fans hoped for when he signed. That doesn’t mean that he is a lost cause, as he has flashed his potential. He is still moving excellently and has constantly adapted to playing with Salah, it feels like it’s a matter of time before he figures things out.

Photo: Getty

It is an  interesting thought experiment to imagine a world where Haaland never signed for City, thus allowing Núñez to not face such comparisons. Because he was deemed as second fiddle from that moment, it’s been easier to single him out for criticism. Again, fans and pundits must realize that Núñez is not on Haaland’s level despite the fee paid.

Núñez will never be Haaland, a terminator destined to rule our world, but he can still be a star. This criticism and  pressure will  take a toll on him, but Liverpool fans are hoping that he can be their next Luis Suárez.

In a recent interview Gonzalo Higuain revealed the impact that 15 years of insults, across his career, have had. Multiple soccer players, and athletes in general, have been sponges for abuse and reprimanded by some for speaking out.

Sports are an intimate affair where communal bonds are formed to celebrate or commiserate together. It’s this experience where all the frustration and pain of one’s life can be forgotten about for 90 minutes. This, of course, means that at times those frustrations will be lashed onto the players.

It’s always been the case for sporting events, since the days of gladiators maiming each other. There’s always been this aspect of seeing those performing as nothing more than bodies in motion. Thus allowing for the most virulent and disgusting abuse to be launched at them.

Players are meant to be sponges, or punching bags, that can be torn down as easily as they’re built up. They can’t be seen as fellow human beings because then it robs the sport of some magic, so they must be willing to go through the abuse. The moment that image is broken then it forces those spewing the abuse to come to terms with their own existence.

At the same time, sadly, it’s become part of being an athlete. This notion that players have to shut up and play their sport. Again reducing them to nothing more than products that only exist to be admired when they achieve something  and demolished when they fail.

The core of this is that the players have to be the public face of their team’s failings, like workers at any company. It’s not David de Gea or Harry  Magurie’s faults that United is run like the worst car dealership in Myrtle Beach. Yet they must be the ones held accountable by fans, as there is no way of truly affecting owners.

Photo: Getty


It’s easier to mock Núñez and attribute Liverpool’s failures to him than it is to criticize those running Liverpool. The same group that let Mané walk without a proper replacement and started this season with an injury crisis. So Núñez must be mocked or Liverpool’s ownership will be blamed for some of the club’s struggles.

Just as the gladiators of old were nothing more than the playthings of the wealthy classes, who allowed their subjects to enjoy the festivities from time to time. These athletes can’t speak out or the whole system collapses.

With 100% certainty, it’s safe to say that Núñez will not be the last player this season to be mocked to a point where every movement on the field is tracked. It also brings the question, what is all this worth?

Núñez’s career has barely started at Liverpool and people are already celebrating his supposed fall. It’s a cruel sideshow that will hopefully not derail the career of a promising youngster. Because, after all, Núñez and this circus is a prism that we all judge ourselves by.


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