SO it seems Liverpool are on the verge of signing Brazilian attacker Roberto Firmino. As a self-confessed football hipster, I’m punching the air/cat in delight.
At the time of writing, Sky Sports News are parading Liverpool’s agreement with Hoffenheim for the transfer of Firmino on their yellow ticker. It is a silly ticker these days, full of inaccuracies with the veil of coming from the mysterious ‘Sky sources’. However, this story makes me excited, so I’ve decided it’s true.
Let’s get this right first of all. I watch A LOT of Bundesliga. An unhealthy amount. It’s a league that has the perfect blend of Premier League style pace and Serie A style tactical subtlety, with a sprinkle of pep in there to ‘La Liga’ it up a bit. There also may be an addiction to the dulcet tones of Archie Rhind-Tutt, but that’s for another time.
I have therefore seen plenty of Firmino and his ways in the last two years, and by crikey he’s good at the kicky-ball thing.
It’s not just that the lad is super talented, that he’s been one of the most potent attacking talents in the Bundesliga since the age of 20, that he’s a bona-fide Brazilian, or that he’s (probably) Phil Coutinho’s bezzie mate.
It’s that he is a dynamic player who can be plonked into a Brendan Rodgers side and will likely make it better at goalscoring, and for some reason, Liverpool didn’t sign any of those last year and appeared to be going down the route of not doing it again this year.
All of a sudden, the Benteke links die out, Firmino and Bacca rumours kick in, and Liverpool appear to have finally remembered that 2013/14 happened.
Carlos Bacca was covered eloquently and enthusiastically on this week’s podcast, in particular by Martin Fitzgerald, which included talk from Melissa Reddy about how Bacca used to be a bus conductor and sold fish (not necessarily at the same time). It may be that he’s being targeted because Rodgers asked for a ‘selfish’ striker… ahem.
And just think how good it’ll be if he bites (or chews) someone. The headline writes itself.
He and Firmino make all the sense in the world when you take into account how and when Rodgers has had success in his three years at Liverpool. There has never been a time where his team has played better with a big man up top to hold the ball up. You put in fast, skilful attackers who can run in behind defences, and you finish second. You don’t, and you don’t, not even close.
It does raise somewhat of an eyebrow that the targets appear to have gone from Benteke to those two given how very different they are, and how you’d pretty much have to set your entire team up differently to accommodate the Belgian, not that he isn’t very talented, but you would like to think that there is a clear line of thinking in how Liverpool want to play, and not just going down a list of attackers based on their FIFA 15 rating.
As Liverpool fans we have often been underwhelmed by our club in the transfer market, especially in recent years. The money has been there, it has been well and truly spent on the likes of Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll, Iago Aspas, Luis Alberto, Dejan Lovren, Mario Balotelli… and an array of other expensive misses. It has been the sort of dealing that takes a steaming dump on the argument that having less money than those above us means resistance is futile.
It’s not been across the board disastrous, there have of course been some big success stories, but it could certainly have been better.
I’m going to stick my neck on the line here and say that a signing like Firmino is much more like it. Exactly the sort of signing Liverpool need to make to bridge that gap.
There has been a lot of excitement about the Twitter and forums about Firmino, and let’s be honest, it’s largely due to his stats (unless Hoffenheim games have far greater viewing figures than BT Sport lets on).
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of those trouser tightening stats (based on the last two seasons and according to WhoScored.com):
- Firmino has scored 23 goals and assisted 21 in 66 appearances, largely from an attacking midfield role.
- Only Arjen Robben and Kevin de Bruyne gained a higher WhoScored average rating last season in whole Bundesliga (7.79)
- He has averaged almost 3 shots per game in that time (Raheem Sterling averaged 2 in same time)
- Average of 4.4 dribbles per game (Sterling averaged 2.9)
- Averaged 2.6 tackles per game (Sterling averaged 1.2)
- Average of 1 interception per game (Sterling averaged 0.6)
- Never went more than four games without a goal or assist last season (courtesy of @BassTunedToRed)
- Most successful tackles (81) and successful dribbles (139) than any attacking midfielder in Europe’s top five leagues last season
- He’s bloody good
Okay that last one isn’t strictly a stat, but he is. He’s a reason to get excited, and Liverpool fans have had precious few of those in recent times.
James Milner is likely to be a terrific addition, and Danny Ings has already shown a great attitude and could well be a star of the future, but neither really give you that belly fizz. Firmino gives you the belly fizz.
His acquisition, or even the fact that Liverpool are trying to sign a player in his position, might just set off some alarm bells for one Adam Lallana. The former Southampton player has carved a niche since his move of being the player you always forget when you’re trying to predict matchday squads. Not strictly his fault, he’s been very unlucky with injuries, and his numbers are pretty good in isolation, but he is yet to make a mark that puts him in the centre of the Liverpool first team. Firmino’s potential addition means that this coming season is very much sink or swim for Lallana.
If you’re struggling to see in your mind’s eye what kind of player Firmino is, just think of a more Brazilian version of Clint Dempsey, except much better at football and probably rapping. He finds himself in the right areas running from deep, and ‘smells of goals’, as Dunga put it. He may have said ‘smells of girls’, I’m not sure what his marital status is, but either way he scores a lot.
Dare I say it, this deal has an element of the Luis Suarez purchase about it. Not for one second am I suggesting that the Brazilian will get to those stupid levels of useful here, but he’s a similar age, he’s South American, has massively impressed after arriving in Europe, and is seeing Liverpool as the next big step in his career. Who knows, perhaps we could be selling him to Barcelona for a £50m profit in four years’ time.
Again, it’s not just the brilliance that Firmino should bring to the team with him, it’s what this signing represents. It represents a move that people thought Liverpool incapable of. It’s a leap, an apparently well-researched leap. It represents Liverpool trying to do something about finishing sixth, and not signing players who will keep that as ‘par’.
Assuming the deal goes through — and everything suggests it will — it may well just be the first of some big moves from the Reds in the next few weeks. With interest in Nathaniel Clyne still apparently there, incessant rumours from well placed sources that Bacca and/or Salomon Rondon could be next on the list, and the entire Italian media insistent that Mateo Kovacic is on his way to Anfield (did someone say ‘saga’?) Rodgers could have plenty to work with when he returns next month. High numbers of incomings is often seen as a problem, but ideally a high level of quality will overcome any other issues.
Firmino is 23, is apparently ready to sign the best years of his career to Liverpool Football Club with a five-year contract (hint hint, Raheem) and is currently impressing at the Copa America (what open goal?). This is a big deal, and most important of all, it gives sad, fickle, droopy-faced dimwits like myself who were walking the streets asking strangers if I could borrow some hope for next season as I was fresh out, a slap in the face and a reason to look forward.
Right that should just about cover it. If I haven’t ensured that the transfer will fall through then I’ve most certainly guaranteed that Firmino turns out to be pap. You’re welcome.
Will the Brazilian be a failure at Anfield?
For me? No.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo/PA Images
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