Jurgen Klopp admits Darwin Nunez is struggling to learn English but the Liverpool boss remains fully invested in his striker despite a first season of mixed fortune.
Liverpool splashed £85million on the Uruguayan last summer as Sadio Mane left for Bayern Munich.
Klopp was given a first-hand look at Nunez who scored twice for Benfica against the Reds in last season’s Champions League quarter-final.
Despite a promising start when he scored in the opening day draw at Fulham, Nunez has found the going tough at Anfield in what has been an underwhelming season for the Reds.
Nunez has netted nine league goals this term – 15 in all competitions -and has been banished to the bench in three out of Liverpool’s last four league games.
Despite that, Klopp maintains the 23-year-old is still adapting to his new surroundings and insists he will be a key player for Liverpool in the future.
“Darwin is a player with a different skill set to all our other players, he offers a different option, and that’s good,” Klopp told his press conference ahead of Saturday’s fixture at home to Nottingham Forest.
“He is a machine and he has had super moments… [but] he is still adapting.
“His English is still not great if existing at all, which is not helpful, so we go through a difficult debut season for the whole team which means then for a striker, how can a striker shine if the team is struggling? But we’re working on it [his English].
“This is a long-term project and he desperately wants to play. I understand Darwin is not always fine when he doesn’t start, smiling in my face, but it’s absolutely fine.
“We have five, six players up front, I have to make decisions. The door is miles open for all the boys. He was exceptional [against Leeds]. Everyone who came on was on fire.”
The Uruguayan has been deployed as both a central striker and a left-sided forward this season and while Klopp recognises him as a centre-forward, the German know Nunez has the attributes to succeed anywhere across the front line.
Klopp continued: “He’s a centre-forward but we need a specific set-up to play and defend from the centre but we have to understand as a team [to defend from the centre].
“We’ve had to adapt to different defending [this season] and with a striker up front, that’s how it is.
“It’s about fine tuning and that is what we’re doing. After this season there is another and that is already on my mind now. Maybe we can learn some things to use now, that’s how I see it. He can play both.
“I am completely fine but he has to learn English. We can’t have four different languages in training sessions. It’s a football language so that’ll [when he’s able to speak English] help him massively.”