The signing of Roberto Firmino likely caused many a puzzled look and cries of ‘Firmin…who?’ amongst the Anfield faithful last summer. Bought to the club for a whopping £29m during Brendan Rodgers’ reign, the price-tag assigned to the Brazilian signed from club Hoffenheim was significant enough to both instil hope, but likewise bring cause for concern – another potential Kop flop.
And for a while it looked like the former might be true. Struggling to adapt to the English game, the young Brazilan failed to live up to his billing as Liverpool’s third most expensive signing ever, although this may have had as much to do with Rodgers’ shortcomings as a coach than anything Firmino did or didn’t do. As Liverpool and Rodgers struggled, so too did the former Hoffenheim player, his versatility seemingly working against him with his then boss failing to find a system that best showcased his talents.
But with a new manager came a new lease of life for the 24 year-old. Jurgen Klopp’s arrival in early October signalled a dramatic change in form and fortune for both player and club. Playing as a ‘false nine’ in the new manager’s fluid system, Firmino’s full range of ability has become increasingly evident over the last few months, with his link up play with the other flair players at the club particularly eye-catching. He’s hauled himself to record of nine goals and eight assists, with Klopp a big factor in this output.
And thus, in a season of unprecedented variance, clubs across the Premier League playing with new found spirit and ability and unearthing relatively unknown names or forgotten stars from around Europe and beyond, it is arguably Liverpool who have found a real gem in Firmino, the player an outside candidate for signing of the season.
Of course, there are plenty of other names in the mix, one’s that are likely to garner a touch more praise than the Brazilian playmaker. N’Golo Kante’s presence in the heart of Leicester’s midfield has been a major factor in their potential championship-winning side; Dimitri Payet’s class and composure in the claret and blue of West Ham has been nothing short of remarkable; Xherdan Shaquiri’s surprise arrival at the Britannia yet another cog in the Mark Hughes revolution at the Brittania; even Toby Alderweireld at Spurs, arguably the best defender in the top-flight and a key reason for the north Londoners best-ever season in the Premier League. But none of these hold quite the promise and potential of Liverpool’s emerging star.
Still a relative youngster at just 24, Firmino can only improve on his already considerable talent, his importance in Klopp’s developing side growing with it. As the German coach further implements his ideologies and high-pressing game, the side around him will only improve, any new players bought in are likely to compliment Firmino’s talents. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson agrees, remarking in a recent interview that he only see’s the Brazilian getting better with time, despite some early misgivings on the player. In fact, things already look more than promising, the player garnering comparisons to another talented South American formerly plying his trade at Anfield…
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— öh yoü beaüty (@natefc) March 11, 2016
It may be a little too soon to predict an impact like the one Luis Suarez made on the Anfield turf, but if the early signs are anything to go by then Liverpool have quite some player on their books. Klopp seems destined to lead the Reds back to their trophy-winning best over the next few years, and ‘Bobby’ Firmino looks certain to be a key component in the manager’s plans as he attempts to re-establish the former Champions League winners amongst the Premier League and European elite.
So from being a ‘£30m for whoooo?’ arrival on Merseyside, Liverpool’s No.11 could actually turn out to be the signing of the season.