Off the back of yet another dominant Liverpool display seeing off their fierce rivals Manchester United in the first leg of a Europa League tie, we take a look at the fine performance by Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino and his career so far in the famous red shirt.
Back in the summer under manager Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool fans wanted to see real intent from the club; after a disappointing campaign leaving the Reds in a sorry 6th position, 8 points off 4th placed Manchester United. The club struggled to attract real european quality with the lack of Champions League football, along with losing club captain Steven Gerrard and up and coming talent Raheem Sterling. Mateo Kovačić, now of Real Madrid, and Carlos Tevez who returned back to boyhood club Boca Juniors, were just some of the names floating around Rumour mills and newspapers, exciting many fans. However, after 7 signings and a total of £77.5 million spent, arguably the only player who possessed real quality competing at a top level was James Milner, ironically one of three free transfers made by the club. The biggest talking point of the window came with the £32.5 million signing of Cristian Benteke, with question marks raised to whether the Belgian striker suited Liverpool’s style of slick, fast possession based football. This meant that the transfer of Hoffenheim’s Roberto Firmino was very much overlooked.
Firmino was plucked from the second tier of Brazilian football by Bundesliga side Hoffenheim in 2010. The young teenager struggled to adapt to the foreign nature of football and failed initially to establish himself as a starter for the German outfit. It took three seasons for attacking midfielder to start showing the best of his precocious talent and it was well worth the wait. The 24-year-old had a very impressive spell at his former club, making a total of 153 appearances in all competitions. During his time in German football, Firmino was directly involved in 85 goals, with 49 goals and 36 assists. One of his most memorable goals came against Broussia Dortmund in 2015, who were managed by current Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp.
The Brazilian suffered from a difficult start to his Liverpool career under ex-manager Brendan Rodgers, making limited contributions on the pitch. Firmino did not travel with his new team-mates on the pre-season tour to the Far East and Australia as he was a central part of his native Brazil’s Copa America side. This made it difficult as the midfielder missed valuable time getting to know his colleagues and the management team at Liverpool. His poor performances, along long with several injuries and playing in unfamiliar positions, developed criticism that Roberto was not worth the alleged £29 Million transfer fee.
Following the dismissal of Rodgers and the appointment of enthusiastic Jurgen Klopp, Firmino has been picking up all the plaudits, including ex-Manchester United player Paul Scholes. The Brazilian seems to be thriving in the variety of roles played under the German and is justifying the hefty price tag paid by Liverpool. Speaking in Liverpool FC’s official magazine, the Brazilian cites an increase in confidence and heaps praise on the new Liverpool manager:
<em>”He’s one of the best, if not the best I have worked with. We’re very happy with him since he arrived, he has changed the team’s style of play and now we’re playing better.”</em>
“In Germany, this style of pressing happens a lot. I like his mentality. He brings his own philosophy, which is working for us. We are looking forward every day to improve.”
Since the turn of the year, Firmino’s Liverpool career has really come alight under Klopp. The Brazilian has been involved in the most goals in the BPL with 7 goals and 4 assists, currently leading over the likes of Argentinian Sergio Aguero and controversial Diego Costa. The key to Firmino’s recent prolific form in front of goal seems to be down to simply confidence. It has taken time for for the 24-year-old to adapt to a different league, a new club, a new city and a new language. Since the new year, Firmino has frequently alternated between attacking midfielder and variations on lone striker roles in the absence of injury prone strike Daniel Sturridge.
The impressive form has lead to a statistical comparison to former Liverpool player Luis Suarez at the start of their Anfield careers. Data shown by twitter user @natefc, puts into perspective just how influential Firmino has been under the new management at Liverpool.
It is evident that maybe comparing Suarez and Firmino as players is crazy, but the stats show that the midfielder could potentially have a very bright future. Being only 24 years of age creates excitement for Reds fans, as they will be able to see him improve under Klopp and hopefully reach his full potential. If Roberto is able to keep up his current form in the league for Liverpool there is every hope for the Reds to gain Champions League qualification, as well as helping them past Manchester United in the Europa League next Thursday, with the aims of going far in the competition. The Future is defiantly bright, fans will be hoping that he applies himself and keeps working hard, in turn becoming a cherished player and potentially even a legend.