Before the transfer window opened this year, Liverpool already clinched deals on five players, showing that they are trying to be a bit more organised this time around. Only a year ago they were struggling to find players to replace Luis Suarez and ended up settling for Mario Balotelli in a last-minute panic buy. Hindsight can tell us that Liverpool’s transfers last season were all very badly thought out. This time the case looks a lot different, though. The move for James Milner on a free transfer was clever and he could act as a direct replacement for Steven Gerrard. Danny Ings also looks like a great bit of business. Both these players can add instant quality to a team that was very disappointing last season. But the most exciting new addition has to be Roberto Firmino, the 23-year-old Brazilian who will be joining them from Hoffenheim subject to a work permit and medical. This player could see the Anfield outfit return to the fierce attacking force they were in the 2013/14 season. For £29million, Firmino has a rather large price tag to live up to, but looking at his career so far, it seems that he is very capable of impressing. Here is everything you need to know about Liverpool’s latest Latino.
Firmino was born in Maceio, Alagoas, one of the most dangerous cities in Brazil. Luckily for him his incredible football skill got him noticed and he joined Figueirense’s youth team in 2008 at the age of 17. He made his professional debut for the team against Toninho on 24th October 2009. It wasn’t long before he was promoted to the main squad where he became a regular for one season there, scoring eight goals in 38 league appearances for the club. That was only five years ago. His career has moved quickly since then and he is now a highly regarded talent.
In 2010 Firmino joined Hoffenheim and during his time there scored 49 goals in 153 appearances. The team captain, Andreas Beck, said his development had been outstanding and in 2013/14 he was the Bundesliga’s fourth highest scorer with 16 goals. He made his international debut for Brazil in November 2014 and recently represented them in the 2015 Copa America. He has scored four goals in nine appearances for his country.
Interestingly, Firmino was first discovered by a dentist. Marcellus Portella was the dentist at local side, Clube del Regatas Brasil. He spotted the skills of a then 15-year-old Firmino and realised that he had a great ability. Nobody was interested in him at the time and when Portella said that he would play for the national team one day they thought he was crazy. It was the dentist who helped him get noticed and led him to get the trials in Europe. After making a name for himself in Germany the Brazilian has attracted a lot of interest from big clubs, but rumour has it that fellow countryman, Philippe Coutinho, helped convince him to move to Anfield.
Firmino isn’t an out and out goalscorer but he is always a key factor in the creation of goals (see above). This means he can play as a striker or sit behind a striker in an attacking midfield position. He has been compared to Luis Suarez and Alexis Sanchez in the way he has an unrelenting work ethic and will keep on running for the full 90 minutes. He will trouble defences to no end, constantly trying to steal the ball. In the above video there are a few occasions where he steals the ball from the opposition players with apparent ease. His first manager at Hoffenheim, Holger Stanislawski, described Firmino as “unbelievably good tactically”. He has also been praised by newspapers and been called a master of moving around unnoticed to provide goals or score them himself. All in all, he is an extremely talented player and at the age of 23, still has a lot of time to develop and improve even more.
Firmino is the kind of player that Brendan Rodgers likes. Hard working players who are very attacking are normally the criteria that he looks for. If Firmino has a smooth transition into the Premier League style, he could be a masterful addition to the team. With his fellow Brazilian Coutinho also aggressing in midfield, they could form a really good partnership. He also seems like the ideal replacement for Raheem Sterling. Statistically the Brazilian is a much more solid and reliable player than the Englishman. However, if Sterling were to stay on as well, then the two Brazilians and the pacey Englishman would work very well together. Opposition defences would be pretty scared to face those three feeding a striker.
And what about the striker? If Daniel Sturridge is fit he is obviously the number one choice. And there have been rumours that Christian Benteke is on Rodger’s radar. Indeed, betfair and others will be considering markets for whether the Belgian will leave Aston Villa. New signing Ings could also slot in quite nicely in front of Coutinho and Firmino. Last season he scored 11 goals in 35 appearances for a club that got relegated. With that in mind, imagine how many goals he could produce playing for a top team like Liverpool with a seriously talented midfield putting balls in for him. Not to mention Nathaniel Clyne attacking with force down the wing and whipping crosses in. Liverpool could look like a completely rejuvenated side next term.
The way things stand at the moment, Firmino looks like a great signing for Rodgers and Liverpool, who really need to atone for last year’s transfer blunders. With all these other good signings coming in early, they have a lot of time to gel with each other before the start of the new season as well. Let’s hope that this marks the return of the Liverpool that were so good to watch a couple of years ago.