Peter Crouch has lauded Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez and admitted there are similarities between his own Anfield career and the Uruguayan’s journey at the club.
Since joining the club from Benfica in a deal rising to £85million in the summer of 2022, Nunez has become a hugely popular and iconic figure among Reds supporters.
Few strikers cause more chaos on the pitch than the 24-year-old, but he has also been at the centre of several embarrassing misses, combining the wonderful with the woeful on occasions.
But, despite questions about his finishing, Nunez has laid on 10 goals and 10 assists in 32 games in all competitions so far this campaign to go with his 15 strikes last season.
And Crouch – who scored 42 goals in 134 appearances for Liverpool but took 20 games to open his account – claimed he could relate to Nunez’s wastefulness in front of goal, and insisted he is a major asset for the club.
‘There are some similarities with Nunez to when I was there,’ he exclusively told Mail Sport when speaking on behalf of TNT Sports, who will show the midweek fixtures in the Premier League next week.
‘It was hard for me at the start. But the fans stuck with me and it feels like he’s in the best place for that because Liverpool stuck with me when I had a difficult time.
‘He causes carnage by constantly making runs. As a result, he gets more chances than other strikers because of his pace and strength and how quickly he gets onto things.
‘He is going to have more chances and won’t be as clinical as he could be. But I still think he is a huge asset for Liverpool towards the end of the season.’
Over recent weeks, Nunez – who was dubbed Andy Carroll’ in endearing chants from Liverpool fans during their 4-0 win over Bournemouth – has started to look at home for the Reds, stepping up in the absence of Mohamed Salah due to AFCON and now injury.
But the initial challenges he has faced in England are echoed by the likes of Nicolas Jackson and Rasmus Hojlund.
Both players secured big-money moves to Chelsea and Man United respectively in the summer, with Jackson joining the Blues for £32m and Hojlund moving to Old Trafford for £72m.
However, they have struggled, with Hojlund, 20, scoring just two Premier League goals in 16 games, while Jackson has netted seven times from an xG of 11.18.
And Crouch sympathised with the pair and felt strikers are held to an almost impossible standard now due to the stunning impact of Erling Haaland at Man City.
He added: ‘Hojlund is an especially young player, Jackson too and they need time to improve.
‘The problem was they signed just after Haaland. People are always comparing strikers to him and they have similar price tags as well.
‘But they’re never going to compare because Haaland is a freak of nature.
‘Hojlund in particular has great potential, but to hang your hat on him at the moment is a difficult one.’
Meanwhile, Crouch also felt Liverpool and Man City were the two strongest challengers for the title given their pedigree, explaining how the experience both clubs have of similar situations will stand them in good stead.
A major worry for the Reds is Salah’s aforementioned unavailability, with the Egyptian already away on AFCON duty when he picked up a hamstring injury, with the length of his absence unclear.
And although the 42-year-old felt the Reds were still likely to rival City all the way, Crouch admitted losing Salah could have an impact.
‘It’s a huge blow to the title ambitions if he’s out for a long time,’ he said. ‘Hopefully he’ll be back soon, but I saw a stat they have 30-odd goals from substitutes this season.
‘That is incredible and shows the strength in depth they have. Liverpool can share the goals around, with Nunez, (Luis) Diaz and (Diogo) Jota all well capable of scoring.
‘But Mohamed Salah is just relentless and anyone would miss him.’