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Atlético eyeing Darwin Núñez deal as multiple top clubs circle

A few separate factors may have Atleti positioned at the head of the queue.

Liverpool FC v SL Benfica Quarter Final Leg Two - UEFA Champions League
Núñez scoring for Benfica against Liverpool, during the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg at Anfield earlier this month.
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Everybody loves Darwin.

Benfica’s star forward, who has scored 33 times in 38 games this season, is almost a certainty to leave Lisbon this summer amid huge interest from several of Europe’s most-renowned clubs. The Athletic recently credited Chelsea, Manchester United, and Paris Saint-Germain with having the most interest in acquiring the 22-year-old, while West Ham had an offer turned down in January. Bayern Munich, Newcastle, and Wolves have also reportedly sniffed around.

But according to Portuguese newspaper Record, Atlético Madrid are the side currently leading the chasing pack trying to sign Darwin Núñez.

Even though the team has yet to clinch 2022/23 Champions League qualification, Record claims Atlético are intent on securing Núñez’s transfer and could offer Benfica multiple players in exchange as negotiations progress. Another Portuguese paper stated earlier this week that Benfica’s leadership believes it can raise the bidding high enough to surpass the fee received for João Félix three years ago. Most outlets seem to think Núñez won’t go anywhere for less than €70 million anyway.

Almeria v Girona - La Liga SmartBank Playoffs
Núñez in action for Almería during the LaLiga Smartbank Playoffs against Girona, Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos, Aug. 16, 2020.
Photo by Silvestre Szpylma/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Atlético will have to move quickly in order to provide Diego Simeone with a João-Darwin strike partnership next season, and the club could be buoyed by reporting that Núñez would prefer to return to Spain this summer despite heavy Premier League interest. Núñez, who recently changed agents, played one season for LaLiga Smartbank side Almería, where he scored 16 goals during the 2019/20 campaign.

Atlético’s close links with Benfica have seen the two sides complete several deals over the years, a fact that could help the Núñez negotiations as well. Within the past decade, the Eagles have sold Jan Oblak and Nico Gaitán to Atleti (in addition to João Félix), while Atleti have sent back players like Raúl Jiménez, Toto Salvio, and midfielder Pizzi, who went on to make 360 appearances for the 37-time Portuguese champions.

Núñez is seen as an ideal fit for a counterattacking team thanks to his explosive speed and direct playing style. Though the Uruguay international can play through the middle, he thrives in the channel off to the left, where he is best able to weaponize his intelligent attacking movement and escape defenders to finish chances.