Jurgen Klopp believes Darwin Nunez is “ready” to start but that “doesn’t mean he has to,” with the Liverpool boss not confirming his plan for the trip to Fulham.
Nunez has arrived at Liverpool with considerable expectation, as the most expensive signing in the club’s history and, as it stands, the joint-most expensive across Europe this summer.
But after getting up to speed in the first weeks of pre-season, the Uruguayan made his mark with four goals in the 5-0 friendly win over RB Leipzig before a game-changing cameo against Man City that saw him score again.
Following a goal and an assist in the Community Shield, there is a chance that Nunez makes his first competitive start for Liverpool as early as this weekend.
However, while Klopp insists his No. 27 is “ready,” he could not confirm whether he would start at Fulham.
“Darwin is ready. That doesn’t mean he has to start. I don’t know, that’s not about that,” he told reporters on Friday.
“We obviously still have different options and that’s what we will use.
“Darwin needs time to get used to a lot of things, but he is already a real help.”
Nunez attracted bizarre levels of criticism after shaky performances against Man United and Crystal Palace in Asia, which came only days after he joined his new team-mates for the first time.
But Klopp has credited the way in which the 23-year-old has settled since.
“It went really quick, to be honest, from the first game where I thought ‘oh, what are we doing with him?’ – not because of him, but because the passes we played for him,” the manager continued.
“It was a proper pre-season training session for him, the first game, when we gave him a lot of runs to do. But now obviously it’s completely settled.
“He said it himself, he was very nervous in the beginning. From my point of view, I sympathise with that a lot, that’s completely normal, you could see that.
“But that settled pretty quickly because all the players, not only the Spanish-speaking, but they took him under their wings, that was very helpful.
“So he feels very, very ‘home’ after a short period. He already had an impact, he scored in the first final he played. So that’s fine.
“The work will not stop here, but he’s in the best possible place.”
One of the players who has become close to Nunez since his move from Benfica is Roberto Firmino, who could well start ahead of the striker on Saturday.
Klopp was asked how Firmino could help his new attacking counterpart adjust to life at Liverpool, but insisted there was little he could teach him on the pitch.
“They are completely different players. They like each other, they talk a lot with each other, but they are different players,” he said.
“What do you mean? I don’t understand this, to be honest, one player teaching another player what?
“They are both from South America, like each other a lot, both are offensive players, can play different positions.
“What can you learn? Before I arrived, people probably thought Bobby is not the player he was since then.
“I don’t know if that would help. I don’t know if Bobby can even remember that, hopefully not!
“Apart from that, Bobby is an exceptional player, has his absolute own way of football.
“Imagine how Bobby would try to play like Darwin, or the other way around. Bit strange, it’s not necessary.
“As a person, yes, definitely [he can help], like they all do. But as a player, I’m not sure.”