Virgil van Dijk says Liverpool “never doubted” the quality of Darwin Nunez following the striker’s recent upturn in fortunes.
Nunez endured a frustrating start to life at Anfield following his big-money move from Benfica, receiving a straight card against Crystal Palace in just his third appearance under Jurgen Klopp.
However, the Uruguay international is starting to hit his stride in English football; his two goals in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Southampton taking his tally for the season to nine.
“We never doubted his quality but obviously, when you have a price tag like that and the goals are not flowing like you want, it’s good [he has shown character] and I think he’s done very well,” Van Dijk said.
“He has all the qualities for a modern-day striker. There is a reason why we bought him, and he’s maturing, he’s stayed patient, kept his head down and played and that’s a credit to him. Hopefully, he can keep scoring and stay important for the group.
“Obviously, he learns how we want to play, he learns what we expect from him, he plays a little bit on the left, but also has a free role coming into the middle.
“It takes time. It is a new team, new environment, new country, new language, so it is absolutely normal for him to take a little bit more time [to settle in], but there is no doubt the qualities are there, and the goals will follow.”
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Van Dijk also heaped praise on goalkeeper Alisson, who made a string of impressive saves to keep Southampton at bay during the victory at Anfield.
The Netherlands skipper additionally highlighted Roberto Firmino’s character, with the forward opening the scoring against the Saints after being left out of Brazil’s World Cup squad.
“[Alisson is] important for the group on and off the pitch,” Van Dijk added. “We don’t want him to have to make saves, first and foremost. He had to do so [against Southampton] and he was outstanding.
“Brazil are a very good team, they have two of their best goalkeepers in their squad and in my opinion, the best goalie in the world is Alisson.
“I think Bobby [Firmino] should be in, but who am I to say that? He took it on the chin, all you can do is recover and be ready for the rest of the season and I think he will do that.”