In History

Roberto Firmino – having Luis Suarez and Robbie Fowler in one shirt?

Roberto Firmino against Tottenham

From the first moment I saw Roberto Firmino playing in the Liverpool shirt I was sure that he would become one of the world’s most prolific midfielders. There is one thing I was wrong about, it was that under Jurgen Klopp’s management he was about to become one of the world’s best forwards.

I haven’t seen him playing for Hoffenheim as I don’t watch the Bundesliga a lot. However , from his first touch as a Red’s player he has showed an exceptional quality on the ball, he has been fast and aggressive and he has always been a player who was able to create confusion in the oppositions’ defences.

In December 2016, two months after Jurgen Klopp came to Liverpool and was asked about Roberto Firmino he said:

“Nobody asked me about him but he was a player I thought was one of the best in the Bundesliga so, when I saw that Liverpool had signed him, I thought: ‘How could Liverpool do this? They were not in their 100 per cent best moment and other clubs would have spent more on him so I thought immediately: “What a good transfer for them.” I thought they had made a good signing because I felt pretty sure clubs would have paid a lot more for him.”

Klopp has seen that Firmino can go forward and be a real danger to the Liverpool’s opponents and made him playing as false number 9. This have given Firmino a lot of freedom to play in between the likes of the Liverpool’s 4-3-3 formation and in some parts of the game even as number 10. He is not a player who needs to be reminded that he has some defensive responsibilities as he runs backwards in each and every game, tackles a lot and wins a lot of balls in the central area.

In December 2017 the former England and Manchester United central defender Rio Ferdinand has called the Liverpool’s striker a “fantastic footballer”. He has added that:

“Everyone talks about his work-rate but a lot of the goals Liverpool score starts with the ball going into him, it sticking and him laying it off for the third man. He’s a fantastic footballer – there’s a lot more to him than meets the eye.”

In February 2018 the ex Liverpool player, manager and now a SkySports’s pundit Graham Souness commented on Mohamed Sarah and Roberto Firmino saying:

“Those two have got an understanding and Firmino has got a football brain. We were talking off-air about what separates the good players from the great players and it is the picture they see – that is Firmino.”

In March 2018 Ian Wright has told SkySports that Firmino as the world’s best player in the position that he plays, just behind the striker. The former Arsenal and England strikers said:

“He is the best for me in that nine-and-a-half position,” Wright told Sky Sports’ The Debate. I absolutely adore him in respect of coming off the striker. I actually think he is the best nine-and-a-half in the world.”

The best of Robbie Fowler and Luis Suarez in one player!?

Robbie Flower was famously nicknamed as “God” by the Liverpool supporters. Most of them used to say that Luis Suarez was probably the best player they ever watched playing at Anfiled. The opinions are usually related to the experience of any particular generation. I don’t believe that any Liverpool fan could ever make a choice between John Barnes and Steven Gerrad or between Kenny Dalglish and Luis Suarez. If you are a Kopite, who have watched all of them playing for the Reds, you want to have all those magnificent talents into your the current Liverpool squad.

Luis Suarez is an extraordinary striker and I don’t think that anyone would argue on that. But even the Uruguayan isn’t that complex player as Roberto Firmino is. Suarez is probably a little bit more clinical in the box, but he has always been a pure striker, not a midfielder like Firmino. What the Brazilian do better than Suarez is to go back and play as midfielder, tackle the opponents and stop their attacks in their own half. At the same time, while in the box, Firmino has an instinct similar to the one of Robbie Fowler, despite that he has never been a natural number 9.

The current Reds’ number 9 does not need a lot of space un the box to do something. He is very technical and can score a goal or make assistance from situations in which most attacking players usually loose the ball. The latest example is Firmino’s goal against Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield, which won the game for his team. The Brazilian came from the bench in 72th minute to replace Daniel Sturridge and have played less than 20 minutes before netting the ball in the stoppage time, a chance that the Brazilian created virtually himself. He entered the penalty area, which was fully packed with PSG players and opened space to shoot the ball, by dribbling and sending the French defence in different directions. This is something we have seen both with Luis Suarez and Robbie Fowler in the box. None of them could play equally good as striker and as a midfielder, however.

If Klopp needs to put Firmino in the position where James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum play, Roberto Firmino will fill in for any of them without lowering the overall performance of the team.

Firmino – Brazilian who plays like European!?

Roberto Firmino is not a typical Brazilian player. The Brazilian fans regard Gabriel Jesus much more that him, despite that fact that Jesus is a player limited to just one or too positions in any team he would play – both of them as striker. The football writer Marcus Alves says for the Four Four Two Magazine that “Brazilians just don’t rate Roberto Firmino“.

“Firmino’s fight had always been for one of Brazil’s reserve slots at Russia, as a possible replacement in the absence of Jesus”, writes Alves. For any reason the Bobby’s “unrelenting work ethic and intelligence” is still not enough for the Brazilians to give him a place in the national team;’s starting eleven. According to Marcus Alves 32-year-old Diego Souza, “who had two brief spells in Europe and played his entire career in midfield”, Jo, “who flopped at Manchester City and Everton as a youngster” and Diego Tardelli, “the former Real Betis and PSV Eindhoven forward who enjoyed a prolific 2017 season in China” are preferred choice for the Brazilian fans to play than Firmino. Sounds like a joke, isn’t it. It is very likely that this “joke” cost Brazil and exit from the Word Cup.

Alvest quotes one of the most influential football commentators in Brazil, Walter Casagrande (a former Torino, Ascoli and Porto striker) says about Firmino “He’s doing very well for Liverpool, but he doesn’t have a local background; someone to root for him”. Tostao, one of the Brazil’s 1970 World Cup winner and very influential football writer even says:

“If Coutinho is over-complimented, Firmino gets less than he deserves in Brazil,” the 71-year-old wrote. “The boastful people and those who only watch highlight videos of the Premier League ask for Jo and Diego Souza’s call-up. Besides being a great finisher, Firmino makes everything easier for his colleagues because he’s constantly moving around. He’s one of those strikers who don’t limit themselves to being a goalscorer.”

Firmino left Brazil at age of 18 to join the German side Hoffenheim and between in the Bundesliga between 2011 and 2015. At age of 22 when he joined Liverpool, the Brazilian has grown as a player combining his South American talent with a German working ethics. I don’t believe that it is possible to become one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga, based only on one’s technical skills. Firmino had to run a lot, learned to play a very tactical football and to adapt into different game scenarios in Hoffenheim. He needed to learn how to stop the opposite sides to attack, “steeled” a lot of balls and alongside others in the Hoffenheim’s midfield to control possession, whenever it was possible.

One of the most important thing in his game, which he has probably developed in Germany is that he has become very good in finding spaces between the opposition’s lines and to use them both for creating chances for his team mates and to score goals. Compared to Mohamed Sarah, who has an excellent work ethics and often goes backwards to block any of the oppositions players, Firmino also wins a lot of balls in the central area and makes less mistakes when Liverpool start developing their attacks.

The Roberto Firmino’s approach to the game is much more European than Brazilian. He is technical as Spanish, Portuguese or Italian strikers, while at the same time he works hard and runs like a German midfielder. There’s no one like him in the Brazil squad and the sooner Brazilians realize that he is probably as important for their national team as Neymar, the better for them.

Roberto Firmino is also someone with character and is not afraid to speak his mind, while at the same time isn’t a celebrity style player . After Sergio Ramos, who has infamously tacked the Liverpool goalkeeper and then got Mohamed Sarah injured during the Champions League final in Kiev, the Spanish central defender said that he half-expected Firmino to claim he’d come down with a cold after touching the Spain international’s sweat. Firmino’s responded by saying that it was an “an idiot thing to say”and added “He is in reason for being champion, but I think it was very stupid on his part”.

Is Roberto Firmino’s long term future at Liverpool?

At the time I’m writing this article Roberto Firmino has played 151 games for Liverpool, scored 53 goals and made assists, which combined is a really good achievement. 38 of those goals and 27 assists came in 109 Premier League games.

You never know in today’s football where a player would go. A lot of rumors around Roberto Firmino will be bubbling up within the next year. In fact, they have already started. SkySports has claimed that “Barcelona will look to replace Luis Suarez, 31, ahead of next season, with England captain Harry Kane and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino their top choices for the rol”.

One thing that the football analysts and pundits are probably about to realize within the next 10 months is that Roberto Frimino and the whole Jurgen Klopp side is there to fight for trophies and to bring Liverpool back to the top of the world football. This might or might not happen! However, with the financial power of the Premier League and with the way Fenway Sports Group manage Liverpool FC (they have made the club a money making machine) it is no brainer to project that Anfield will be a dream destination for the world’s top players, not a temporary stop for them before moving to Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Finally, Roberto Firmino have a totally different background compared to likes of Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho. He has formed himself as a player in German Bundesliga and rose to prominence as a Liverpool player. Unlike Philippe Coutinho who have played in Spain and Italy, before joining Liverpool, Firmino has developed as a player in a totally different cultural environment. So, it is very likely that he’d commit to a Liverpool, a team which is ready to start winning trophies and to bring glory to any player part of it.

It looks to me that as long as Jurgen Klopp is in charge of the Reds and especially if they manage to win the Premier League, the prospects of Roberto Firmino, moving to any other club in Europe are quite poor. He will be much better at any trophy-winning Liverpool side, rather than in any of the European football giants. He would probably not make the Philippe Coutinho’s mistakes, who’s status after his “dream move” to Barcelona has been reduced from “the most valuable player”, as he was in Liverpool, to just one of the “important names” in the Barcelona’s squad.

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