As far as breakups go, Liverpool’s parting with star striker Raheem Sterling is becoming a rocky one.
The 20-year-old refused to sign a new contract at Anfield, and repeatedly cited his desire to play Champions League football in an unconvincing rendition of, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
While some Reds fans won’t waste any time mourning the winger, who had his share of off-field controversy even before rejecting a £100,000-a-week contract offer, many will wave a tearful goodbye to the team’s second-highest goalscorer.
Well put away your tissues and chocolates and turn off the Whitney Houston, because there’s hope yet to repair the broken heart that is Liverpool’s offense. His name is Roberto Firmino.
Firmino notched 10 goals and 12 assists for Hoffenheim last season, and his agent has already confirmed that he will be on his way to England this summer. Liverpool will have to battle Manchester United for the Brazil international’s signature, but a price likely won’t be set until after Copa America.
As an attacking midfielder, the 23-year-old exhibits many of the same strengths as Sterling, but with added benefits. Both have an affinity for dribbling and playing short passes, but Firmino comes out ahead on the defensive end with his displays of aggression and willingness to tackle.
The Brazilian has been in the Bundesliga for four seasons, during which he’s netted 48 goals and 36 assists in 152 appearances, at 250 minutes per goal. In the past three seasons playing first-team football at Anfield, Sterling averaged 404 minutes per goal.
Firmino’s success playing European football at such a young age is impressive in its own right, but he also has three goals in six international caps since his debut in 2014. He is almost equally as effective playing on the left wing as he is at centre midfield or forward, and has the potential to shift back and forth.
This versatility saw him start in every one of his 33 matches for Hoffenheim last season. Firmino missed just one fixture the entire season due to a yellow card suspension, and has been injury-free since being sidelined for one game with a hurt ankle at the start of the 2013 campaign.
No matter how disheartened Liverpool fans are feeling about the breakup with Sterling and the recent signings that have been labeled “disappointing,” it’s important to remember that there are plenty of other fish in the sea.
As Brendan Rodgers and Co. gather themselves up and prepare to dive back in, one fish in particular will emerge: Firmino, reliable and ready.
So go on, loyal Reds. Get back out there — you deserve it.