Darwin Nunez: Benfica striker wanted by Barcelona who could return to haunt Catalans

Darwin Nunez (right) scored twice against Barcelona in their first Champions League meeting this season

Barcelona host Benfica on Tuesday knowing they must avoid defeat to ensure their hopes of reaching the Champions League knockout stages remain in their own hands.

This is a problem, however, that could have been avoided had the club’s board been able to heed the advice of their former striker Luis Suarez.

While Darwin still played for Almeria in the Spanish second tier, Suarez urged the Barca hierarchy to sign his compatriot.

“I have 15 years of international experience, so I know a thing or two about forwards,” Suarez revealed. “And I told them, ‘pay attention to this one, he’s very good, he has very interesting things’.”

Barcelona did push for a deal. But amid the financial crisis the club still faces now, ultimately they could not come to an agreement and watched Benfica spend a club record transfer fee of 24m euros (£20m) to take the forward to Lisbon in September 2020.

“Barcelona, indeed, showed a strong interest in Darwin. We discussed how the operation would be and outlined it, but they were already going through a tough time back then and that complicated things,” Almeria’s sporting director Joao Goncalves explained to BBC Sport.

“I’m convinced that, had those talks happened in a less turbulent period for them, he would have moved to Barcelona.

“What was on the table was the possibility of them signing Darwin and leaving him with us for another season on loan. Pretty much like they had done before with Pedri at Las Palmas.”

None of this materialised, though, and now the 22-year-old will head to the Nou Camp for the first time with the chance to haunt them again.

‘No, you’re not taking my other son’

For someone who grew up on the Brazilian border in the small town of Artigas and fearing, for much of his childhood, that a river flood would destroy his house, playing Barcelona away is no pressure at all.

Despite the struggles the humble Nunez family experienced, they have always stayed together.

The first of them to leave home was the eldest son, Junior, who impressed Uruguayan powerhouse Penarol and packed his things to the capital Montevideo after former…


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