Darwin Nunez’s mum sold milk bottles so Liverpool target could become footballer

Darwin Nunez looks set to become one of the most expensive football players in history if he joins Liverpool this summer in a deal a world away from his humble upbringing.

Fresh from scoring 34 goals for Benfica last season in all competitions, Nunez, 22, has the world at his feet. Liverpool are reportedly considering making an offer for the Uruguayan forward, while their rivals Manchester United are also said to be admirers of him, despite not being able to offer Champions League football next season.

Whichever club wins the race for one of European football's hottest talents, it'll cost. Nunez is valued by Benfica at an eye-watering €100million (£85.5million). Those sorts of numbers are a far cry from the star's youth in the deprived neighbourhood of Los Piratas in Artigas, a Uruguayan village on the borders of Brazil, where his mum earned money collecting bottles from the street and selling them for money.

Nunez revealed the sacrifices his parents had made for the sake of his football career following his move to Europe with Almeria in 2019. He even talked of begging the president of his former side Penarol for the move.

"With this move I will be able to buy my parents' house in Artigas," he said. "My parents sacrificed themselves for me, my mother collected bottles in the street and my father worked all day in construction."

It's fair to say the 6ft 2in Uruguayan has not looked back since his debut for the Spanish minnows. In his one and only season with Almeria, he finished as the Segunda Division's joint-fourth top scorer with 16 goals.

Despite Nunez's obvious potential, the star remained grounded, in part thanks to his mum. David Badia was assistant manager for much of Nunez's time in Andalusia. In an interview with Sky Sports, he called a story from their time together.

"He is an ordinary person," he said. "I was with my wife buying a phone myself. It was amazing. You expect that he would buy the top model. He just wanted a normal phone so he could call his mother."

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The youngster's exploits in front of goal soon caught the attention of Portuguese giants Benfica, who paid the not inconsiderate sum of £20million to bring him to the Estadio da Luz.

Despite adapting well to his new surroundings, knee trouble that had first arisen when he was 18 resurfaced in May 2021. Knee surgery last summer saw him miss the first few weeks of the new season, but he more than made up for lost time when he did finally return.

After six goals in his first eight Portuguese league matches this term, Nunez caught fire. He has found the net 26 times in 27 games in all competitions since, including in both legs of Benfica's Champions League quarter-final defeat to Liverpool in April. He certainly caught the eye of Jurgen Klopp, who remarked on his strength, pace and calm finishing after the clash at Anfield.

"He moved to Benfica, a bigger team, playing in Europe. But the numbers are still there," said Javier Agenjo, the former Almeria fitness coach, when he reflected on the star striker's growth.

"He has shown himself to be a fighter. He has shown everyone now and he will move to one of the biggest clubs. For sure, he is ready to move one step forward."

With mere hours until the summer transfer window opens and Liverpool showing firm interest in the Uruguayan sensation, it doesn't look like it will be long until we find out how he gets on at one of the game's superpowers.

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