Despite the ever-expanding nature of sports analytics and forms of scouting, there’s always that sense of gambling on the unknown when purchasing a new player, even more so when it’s a club (in this case, Liverpool, or any other team linked to this swirling transfer rumors) from a bigger league such as the Premier League, making a move for a player (referring to Darwin Nunez of Benfica) from a supposedly weaker division (Portugal’s Primeira Liga).
So is Nunez, whether he’ll cost 80 or 100 million Euro, a sure thing? Even for a club that’s relatively successful in nailing its big and middle-sized signings such as Liverpool, it’s never guaranteed. Luis Diaz, who also arrived not too long ago from the Portuguese league (a different club this time, Porto), settled in quite nicely (not to mention quickly). And maybe he can be some sort of reference point?
Taking a look at his performance last season, Diaz, in 18 league matches with Porto, managed 14 non-penalty goals and 4 assists (via FBref.com). In the realms of per 90, it comes to 1.09 goals+assists. For Liverpool, in 13 matches, as part of a more loaded frontline and obviously a new league to adjust to, he managed 4 goals and 3 assists in 13 league matches; 0.66 per 90 minutes. Not bad at all.
So how did Nunez do last season for Benfica, which looks like his final campaign in Portugal for the time being? Bloody brilliant, with 26 non-penalty goals and 4 assists in 28 league matches, or 1.18 goals + assists per 90. So, using quick math, are we going to see an 0.71 G+A per 90 season from Nunez, wherever he goes in the Premier League? Who knows. Nunez and Diaz played a different role for their respective clubs in Portugal, making this whole thing perhaps nice to tinker with statistically, but predictively redundant.
To summarize, if Liverpool, Manchester United, or any other club that signs Nunez and gets Diaz-level production and consistency from pretty early on, it’ll be a resounding success. United have their own success story (that is, until last season at least, but it’s hard to pin it on him personally) with a Primeira Liga player who was clearly a step above everyone else there while he was playing with Sporting – Bruno Fernandes. Getting that kind of production won’t be too bad either.