The Clutch Pedal – Darwin Núñez
Darwin Núñez, hailing from the footballing pool of Uruguay, has become a name synonymous with striking excellence. Considered to be the heir to Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, it happens to be the case that a lot of us fans know very little about the Uruguayan outside of highlights and reels.
In this brief article, we catch a glimpse of Nunez’s ascent from the streets of Montevideo to the grand stages of European football along with intriguing elements of his life outside of football which includes his family, religion, girlfriend, lifestyle, and so on.
Darwin Núñez Family
He is the second and the youngest of the two sons born to Bibano Núñez and Silvia Ribiero. His older brother goes by the name Junior Núñez.
Darwin is of Spanish descent as his grandparents emigrated from Spain to Uruguay.
He is a devout Christian and has several religious tattoos embedded into his skin. The struggles he faced during his adolescence emboldened his faith.
He is unmarried. However, he is currently dating Lorena Manas, and together they have a son named Darwin Jr. It is interesting to note that Lorena is former Barcelona winger, Aleix Vidal’s ex-wife.
Darwin was born in the suburbs of Artigas, Uruguay on the 24th of June in 1999. He spent his entire childhood and adolescence in the shanty towns of Artigas. The love for football was found through his older brother who was an avid Football fan. Together, they made the most of their time by kicking the ball around on muddy surfaces. Young Darwin looked up to his older brother as a role model. Pictured below is his house from the ‘bitter-sweet’ days of his childhood.
Darwin’s childhood was a painstaking one as he would often go to sleep with an empty stomach. He says the following:
“I sometimes went to sleep with an empty stomach,” Nunez told El Observador in 2019. “But it was my mum who went hungry the most, so us kids had something to eat.”
He comes from an impecunious background where his father was a construction worker and his mother was a hawker of milk bottles. Very little is known about his schooling and education but what we do know from the stories he has shared is that he would survive on the lunch shared by his classmates. He briefly recalls blasts from the past in the following interview:
The Beginning of a Thriller
The expedition towards the pinnacle of Football began when he attempted trials at La Luz Academy. Given his incredible footballing adroitness, he passed the trials with much ease and would go on to become the best player in the youth ranks. He gives his first coach credit for being his forefront supporter, helping him develop as a young prodigy but also as a fellow human being as he provided them with financial aid whenever necessary. He passed away a few years ago and he dedicates a celebration to him by pointing to the sky as an indication of his gratitude.
It was clear to Darwin and everyone else around him that he was too good to be put in the same pool as his peers. This prompted a hunt for an environment more competitive for him to hone his skills and gameplay. The desire to be the best provoked a move to San Miguel de Artigas, the biggest football school in his hometown. Over there he was noticed by Jose Perdomo, a Uruguayan footballing icon, who was thoroughly impressed by the young lad’s game. He took it upon himself to convince their parents to allow their young baller to move to Montevideo to play for reputable teams.
Road To Fame
The decision to become a part of a bigger, better, and more competent environment came at the expense of moving to Montevideo alone, at 14 years of age. The club he joined was Peñarol and had a rather bitter start to his chapter as he very quickly got homesick. The pomp and noise of the big cities had him uneasy and he requested the higher-ups at Peñarol to allow him to go back. The request was granted on the condition that he return within a year and continue with Peñarol, to which he indicated no objections.
His return to Artigas came with a promise to recollect and reclaim himself as he embarked on upping his mental endurance. Darwin’s homecoming to Peñarol was marked with a renewed vigor as he pinned himself on the map with his apex performances, showing yet again that he was too good for his peers. He was declared ready to sign a professional contract at 16 years of age.
A Bitter Halt
Darwin’s exponential growth was intersected with a terrible blow as he suffered a serious knee injury that set him out of action for a year and a half. During this period, he strongly contemplated quitting football after undergoing surgery. This coincided with his older brother Junior finding himself having to make a bitter settlement with the contemporary circumstances. Family problems, financial crisis, life events along with others, the decision? Junior quitting football to support the Nuñez family.
This decision broke Darwin’s heart as he envisaged a career with him in it and while he insisted on leaving along with him, Junior had the following today:
“You’re better suited than me, you stay, I’m leaving”
Darwin’s return to football was packed with myriads of hope and motivation to reach the cosmos following the recent turn of events. He was given his full professional debut against rivals CA River Plate, only for disaster to ensue shortly. He was forced to leave the field as he struggled with his knee pain and it only got worse the more he stayed on. Darwin left the pitch with his face doused in tears.
Meeting His Destiny
His second return broke the first one’s fastigium as he was filled to the brim with hunger and motivation. He won several trophies with Peñarol in those 2 years and even scored a hattrick against rivals Boston River. His stupendous performances had him on the radar of top scouts from Europe and Spain in particular. It was UD Almeria who procured his services, a team that at the time played in the second tier of Spanish football leagues.
In the 30 league games he played for Almeria, he tallied an impressive record of 16 goals. The summer transfer window heralded further transfer speculations and at last, Benfica were the ones who got their hands on him. At Benfica, he had a poor debut season but unleashed his goal-scoring instincts in the one that followed that earned him the Bola de Prata, an accolade handed to the Primera Liga’s top scorer. The summer of 2022 saw him join Jurgen Klopp’s side undergoing a revamp for a fee of €80m. He hasn’t been competing for the Golden Boot or breaking charts week in and week out but has delivered clutch performances whenever needed.
Lifestyle and Personality
Like many other football players, Darwin is introverted and doesn’t express his colors on camera or in public effortlessly. However, he values the company of a good circle of friends with whom he spends days off.
Furthermore, he has a very soft spot for those in difficulties and facing the trials of life. An Artigas-based journalist Monty Suarez said in an interview that when news reached Darwin that a young boy was unable to continue his studies, he sent him money to redress his plight. He also takes part in several charity events and the one in particular that deserves a highlight is when he organized a charity match in his hometown of Artigas.
Darwin has several tattoos embroidered on his body. The one on his chest reads ‘Family’ pointing to the centricity of his household members in his life. However, the most impressive is perhaps the one on his back which is an illustration of a lion. He has said that this is a symbol of strength and courage for him, both as a player and as a person.
Fun Facts about Darwin Núñez
- The most expensive signing of Liverpool up to this day
- UD Almeria’s second-biggest sale
- Scored more goals in his first 50 games for Liverpool than Luis Suarez
- Along with Spanish, he speaks fluent Portuguese
- He is good friends with Ivan Rakitic
Darwin Gabriel Núñez Ribeiro
Date Of Birth
June 24, 1999
Place Of Birth
6ft 2in (1.87m)
- Bibiano Núñez (Father)
- Silvia Ribeiro (Mother)
Club Jersey Num
- La Luz
- San Miguel de Artigas
- Unilao Tires