Virgil van Dijk believes striker Darwin Nunez is starting to realize the potential which has persuaded Liverpool to spend a potential record transfer fee on him.
The Uruguayan international endured a difficult start to life at Anfield and despite scoring 16 goals, the feeling remained that he had underperformed.
He has already played an important role this season, scoring two late goals against Newcastle as a substitute. With Mohamed Salah on the bench, he was responsible for the equalizer from a penalty in the 3-1 Europa League win over LASK in Austria.
Nunez has three goals and two assists this season, but his all-round influence isn’t just felt through that contribution.
The Uruguayan, who had previously missed a few chances but failed to score safely in the first half thanks to a brilliant close-range save from goalkeeper Tobias Lawal, was also involved in the second goal with his attack at half-time.
Liverpool’s captain believes the 24-year-old is developing into the striker they hoped he would be when they paid Benfica an initial £64m last summer, which could rise to £85m.
“Everyone has a role to play, whether you start or not. Everyone has now seen the potential and quality he has.
“Darwin was important with the goal against LASK. May it continue like this for a long time, including with the other boys.
“The competition at the front is quite good. They all have to push each other and that’s good to see.”
One of those ‘other boys’ – in the truest sense of the word – was Ben Doak, who became Liverpool’s fourth-youngest European player when he made his first appearance at the age of 17 years and 314 days.
The young Scot was deployed in Salah’s right-hand position and showed his talent despite the team having no chances in the first half.
“It was a big night for him,” added Van Dijk. “It was never going to be easy, it was a difficult game, but he could have scored at least two goals in the first half, passing his man like there was no one there, but unfortunately there was no one at the end of the game.”
“I am happy for him and also very excited about him and the future ahead.
“If you look closely, you’ve seen over the last few weeks that this is a fantastic group to be a part of.
“We have a lot of quality, a lot of younger players, players who are getting new roles and they’re enjoying that too.”
“But at the end of the day, football is about results. Everyone wants to play their best football in every game, but sometimes you have to find a way, like we did at Wolves (after conceding again and winning 3-1).
“After we conceded a set piece on Thursday, we showed that we stayed calm and found a way.”