DARWIN NUNEZ is a shock target for Barcelona in a summer of big changes at the Nou Camp.

And that could see the Liverpool striker replacing superstar Robert Lewandowski, who is set to become a big-name victim of a mass clear-out.

Barca’s salary cap has been slashed to just over £174million by LaLiga, meaning they will have to offload their highest earners to press on with a planned rebuild.

With wages that will rocket to £27m next season, Lewandowski is the biggest earner of all — and almost certain to be sacrificed.

Nunez is among the best paid at Liverpool but he is on about a quarter of the Polish forward’s money, which puts him well within Barcelona’s range.

With a host of others set to leave at the end of the season, Nou Camp chiefs reckon they will be able to meet the asking price — if Liverpool are prepared to do business.

The Uruguay hitman is the Reds’ record buy, costing £85m from Benfica two years ago — and with a contract running to 2028, they will be loath to let him go.

But Anfield top brass are aware of handing incoming boss Arne Slot a decent summer kitty.

A bid to take Mo Salah to Saudi Arabia would provide that.

However, if there is no offer from the Middle East, Liverpool are more likely to listen to Barca.

Nunez is perfectly happy at Anfield and not pressing for a move. But tellingly, South American sources insist the idea of playing for the Spanish giants does appeal to him.

Barcelona tried to sign him from Almeria three years ago and thought they had a deal in the bag before Benfica nipped in to sign him.

Nunez was a sensation in Portugal and has become a huge hit with fans since moving to Merseyside in 2022.

But despite scoring 23 goals this term, he has gone seven games without finding the net — and no player in Europe’s top five leagues has missed more big chances.

He racked up an unwanted list of missed sitters against Luton, Manchester United and Crystal Palace.

Nunez was dubbed the Uruguayan Andy Carroll, the forward who scored just 11 goals in two years for Liverpool, by cruel critics — a year after Kop legend Jamie Carragher compared him to Alan Shearer due to the ferocious way he strikes the ball.

With everyone in a Reds shirt keen to show incoming boss Slot they should be part of his plans — home to Tottenham today is the latest chance — Nunez is under a brighter spotlight than most.

While some in England question his resolve, 6,600 miles away in hometown Artigas those who know him best have no doubt who will have the last laugh.

Nunez has won greater battles, both physical and mental.

First with homesickness when he left San Miguel, the amateur club where he cut his teeth and moved 430 miles to join Penarol, Uruguay’s biggest club.

Being away from parents Bibiano and Silvia was bad enough but when brother Junior — who was also at Penarol — quit to find work and support the family, suddenly he was alone.

Nunez was so heartbroken he nearly packed it all in then — and came even closer when a cruciate knee injury sidelined him for a year.

If it had not been for his elder sibling and support from his San Miguel pals, he may have done.

So once he was convinced to stay, Nunez vowed nothing would stop him.

Few know Nunez better than Daniel Suarez, the San Miguel president and close pal who lifted the lid on those dark early days. Suarez revealed: “Junior was playing at Penarol when Darwin arrived but then returned to Artigas because he was looking for a job.

“It was really hard as his brother was such a strong presence for him.

“He was on his own in Montevideo and it was a difficult time, missing his parents. Then more bad luck struck when he had a cruciate knee injury. That’s when frustration really hit.

“He wanted to go home and retire from football at 16. He was really down.

“Junior was key in convincing him to fight back and even moved back to Montevideo to help him to adapt. And of course his parents visited regularly.

“Everybody at the San Miguel club was also sending messages to lift Darwin’s morale.

“Once he made the decision, he exploded as a player and after he made his Penarol debut at 17, the rest is history.” — Sun.

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