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With rumors that Robert Lewandowski could be sold by Bayern Munich this summer, the attention has switched to potential successors. One of many candidates to replace the Polish star striker is Benfica striker Darwin Núñez.

The Portuguese striker would also be the most expensive option. Núñez would command a fee of €75 million ($81 million). A significant investment but in the same range as what Juventus paid for Fiorentina forward Dušand Vlahović.

That fee is also significantly smaller than what Bayern would have to invest in Lewandowski if they want to keep the forward long-term. The 33-year-old is rumored to have asked for a three-year deal that would earn him €90 million over the full term. A significant investment in a player who would be almost 36 when the contract expires—keeping in mind that the club would have to still make a substantial investment in a new player.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the Rekordmeister could now explore selling Lewandowski in what would be a potential record transfer. The €44 million earned from such a deal would go towards a new striker, with Núñez high up the list of potential replacements.

For Núñez, it is the second time he has been linked with a move to a Bundesliga club. Ahead of his $26.4 million transfer from UD Almería to Benfica, the 22-year-old Uruguayan was heavily linked with a move to Wolfsburg.

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At the time, he was still considered a relatively raw product despite scoring 16 goals in 30 LaLiga 2 games. “He’s come a long way as a striker,” Adrian Sousa, host of the Unsackable Podcast, owner of Rabona TV, and an expert on Benfica. “In his first season, it felt like he would be a forward who helps with Benfica’s build-up, setting up chances for others and finishing off the occasional chance himself.”

Part of the process was to turn Núñez into a more selfish striker. “He picked up a record five assists in his first four Liga matches, was constantly caught offside, and would pass when he should shoot,” Sousa said. Both Jorge Jesus and Nélson Veríssimo worked into turning Núñez into a shoot-first rather than a pass-first forward.”

That perhaps is a bit of a parallel to Lewandowski. The Polish striker also struggled with his goalscoring production in his first year at Borussia Dortmund, looking to pass first rather than going for goalscoring opportunities before Jürgen Klopp turned Lewandowski into the player he is today.

That is where the parallels stop, however. “He’s very different from Lewandowski at the moment,” Sousa said. “His pace is absolutely his most lethal asset.” Núnez is a player that likes to float in from the wing, playing deep off the shoulder of a defender looking for through balls, and does not quite play centrally.

Also, Núnez—despite scoring 33 goals in 38 games this season—is still very much a raw talent and will take time to develop into the sort of forward Lewandowski is at the moment. “He is a superb talent that has proven he can score goals against big teams, and he is improving all the time, but he still has some rough edges to sort out,” Sousa said. “Darwin’s decision-making around the 18 could still improve, and his ball retention and passing need some work.”

Sousa also pointed out that Lewandowski is better at finishing and on the ball. “Where Núñez has the advantage is his speed,” Sousa said. “I don’t think that Darwin would be able to fill in with 40-plus goals per season as Lewandowski does at such a consistent rate, but I do think that he could be a dangerous player for Bayern in the future.”

A prospect for the future then, but Bayern Munich will have to start the succession planning sooner rather than later when it comes to a potential Lewandowski replacement. Although Sousa believes $81 million is inflated, the market, however, commands fees in Núñez’s category.

“The price will always be speculative as you are purchasing potential, but you are purchasing a player who is incredibly effective in the present and has a very large ceiling and a willingness to listen to feedback from his coaches to improve,” Sousa said. “That kind of attitude is priceless when paired with natural talent, which we have witnessed at Benfica as he continues to improve upon his weaknesses.”

Manuel Veth is the host of the Bundesliga Gegenpressing Podcast and the Area Manager USA at Transfermarkt. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth

Source: Forbes

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