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Darwin Nunez’s inspiration for Liverpool’s renaissance sits next to him in the dressing room

Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo have had their ups and downs for Liverpool this season, but it was the former who finished the strongest.

For Cody Gakpo, the celebration said it all.

Liverpool They may have been two goals ahead against Tottenham Hotspur as he outplayed Cristian Romero to tip Harvey Elliott’s delivery past Guglielmo Vicario, but that didn’t stop Gakpo from venting a season’s worth of frustrations difficult at Anfield.

Even though the Reds’ hopes of winning the Premier League are all but over after a ruinous April which saw them fall by the wayside and behind Manchester City and Arsenal, the Dutchman stepped away to celebrate in front of the Kop and executed an emphatic knee slide. he had a steely look between his eyes as he persisted in a successful resurgence after a difficult start to 2024 on Merseyside.

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So it’s no surprise that Gakpo was so enthusiastic in his celebration as he gave Liverpool a three-goal lead against Tottenham, chasing the Champions League. After all, it was his finest performance for the club since masterminding Manchester United’s 7-0 defeat last March.

Since then, there have been one-off flashes of quality from Gakpo, mainly as a substitute in the League Cup and Europa League, as a reminder of why the Reds moved quickly to agree a deal with PSV Eindhoven for striker before Premier League rival United 18 months ago.

On Sunday afternoon, however, those flashes were harnessed together by a mature performance at the front of the line. In the first half, it was his cross who, after putting the ball under his spell with a deft touch, invited Mohamed Salah to open the scoring by passing Vicario at the far post in the first 20 minutes.

Gakpo’s performance was so assertive and self-assured that it was reminiscent of his debut at Anfield in 2023, when he endeared himself to Kopites with goals against United and Everton and, at one point, earned plaudits as the ideal replacement for the future player. the future Roberto Firmino.

However, last summer such plans were abandoned as Gakpo was tasked with facilitating Liverpool’s search for solutions in midfield following the failure of a costly move to sign Moises Caicedo. Therefore, the Dutch international started the opening Premier League match at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea alongside Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister in the engine room.

Since then, opportunities in attack have been hard to come by for Gakpo, whose 15 Premier League starts are dwarfed by those of Darwin Nunez (22), Salah (26) and Luis Diaz (30) and, until the start of the last weekend against the Spurs. , was tied with the 14 that the injured Diogo Jota managed in a stop-start campaign.

Essentially, Gakpo’s versatility and application had worked against him in some respects, as he was seen as Liverpool’s main businessman during the early months of the campaign.

“Cody struggled a bit between seasons, that was more my fault,” manager Jurgen Kloppin said in February. “We talked about the possibility of Cody playing in midfield for us, yes he can at different times. Is that his position? I would say no.

“The offensive part of the role he can definitely play, but with the defensive things that he wasn’t used to, that cost him a little bit of confidence at times, you could see that.”

Which is why Gakpo’s gradual re-emergence in recent weeks, initiated after a confidence-shaking FA Cup appearance at Old Trafford, may serve as a timely reminder of Nunez and his long-term ambitions at Liverpool.

Regardless of what the critics say, it has generally been a prosperous season for the Uruguayan as he has scored over 30 goals in all competitions.

However, after glaring misses in last month’s 2-2 draw against United as well as defeats to Crystal Palace and Everton that all but ended the Reds’ hopes of winning the Premier League, Nunez has little objections to being named on the list of replacements. bench in three of Liverpool’s last four outings.

However, the 24-year-old is unique and few, if any, players have ever experienced the extraordinary level of support he has enjoyed since his arrival from Benfica.

But after storming the tunnel following Sunday’s 4-2 win over Tottenham while the rest of his team-mates were enjoying the return of the feel-good factor at Anfield, and hours later he dropped hints enigmatic on social media, it is now time for Nunez to bounce back and reward the unwavering faith shown in him by Kopities week after week over the past two seasons.

And after masterminding his own revival at Anfield in recent weeks, Gakpo can show him exactly how to do it.