ROBERTO FIRMINO feels like a statement signing, argues CRAIG RIMMER. A risk? Maybe. But a necessary one for sure, and the kind of move that Liverpool needed to make this summer.
It’s a signing that achieved the dual purpose of energising the fanbase and catching the attention of our direct rivals. More importantly, from my point of view, it’s a signing that comes with the promise of entertainment and unpredictability. Two commodities conspicuous by their absence last season.
Of all the club’s transfer dealings this summer, it was the one which captivated the imagination more than any other. There is nothing quite like splashing the cash on a costly foreign import. All the more so, if said signing is a Brazilian who most of us know little about (despite what half of Twitter would have you believe). It’s the glamour and appeal of the unknown. It’s not Danny Ings or Rickie Lambert. It’s Roberto Firmino Barbosa de Oliviera, Brazil international and scorer of goals like these….
The signing of any player involves a degree of risk, and at £29m Roberto Firmino does signify a risk. Spending big money is more likely to breed success but is no guarantee of it. That said, Rafa Honigstein in his excellent interview with TAW Player shortly after the signing was announced seemed fairly confident that Firmino represents a low degree of risk, and when it comes to German football Honigstein is a man worth listening to.
Getting the deal done early was a key factor and has encouragingly been a feature of the club’s summer business. By all accounts, Firmino had been courted by a number of Europe’s top clubs – Man United and Bayern Munich included – and he would no doubt have left Hoffenheim before 1st September regardless. But, were others may have hesitated or not considered Firmino an outright first choice, Liverpool got the deal done quickly.
Someone said recently on TAW that they have no interest in players who are simply content with signing for Liverpool. The idea that players with big ambitions see Liverpool as a stepping stone towards, rather than the end goal in itself, being a positive notion (it then being up to the club to prove to the player that they can achieve their ambitions at Anfield by actually winning things). Firmino is the kind of player who could fit into that model, and those are the players who can help push Liverpool to the next level.
He was a late developer and a relative unknown in his native Brazil before making his international debut in the famous yellow shirt last November. The fact that, having made a move to Germany as a 19-year-old, Firmino was able to adapt to a new continent, way of living and style of play, and then proceed to carve a reputation for himself in the Bundesliga, where many others would have failed, suggests a level of determination and mental fortitude that should not be underplayed.
The question now is whether he can replicate the same in the Anfield pressure-cooker. This is no doubt a step up in class for the player, but Firmino is a man with something to prove and is blessed with the ability to make his mark.
TSG Hoffenheim’s finest is probably closer in definition to the scorer of great goals than the great goalscorer (as avid viewers of YouTube will testify). He did bag 22 from 37 games (plus 12 assists) in 2013-14, but his other 3 and half seasons in the Bundesliga were not quite so productive – although a 3-in-1 record still represents a decent return.
The fact is Firmino should not be so burdened by goalscoring expectation in his debut season at Anfield. He is coming into a team and a squad containing senior forwards, Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke, alongside Danny Ings, Divock Origi and Phil Coutinho. All of which should allow the player both the time and space to adapt, and ensure that his ability to provide assists is valued as much as his ability to put the ball in the back of the net. You might say the kind of luxuries that Raheem Sterling was not afforded in this Liverpool team last season.
Firmino is capable of playing anywhere across the front 3, or even in support of Benteke or Sturridge in a front 2. He is perhaps most likely to find a place in the team out wide, although some of his goals in Germany suggest he is well capable of playing off the shoulder of the defender and has the pace to run in behind, which means he could also be effective through the middle.
Firmino no doubt has the game to become an overnight revelation in the Premier League. But some kind of adaptation period may be inevitable – and to that end, an inadequate pre-season may not have been to his advantage.
All in, it feels like the kind of match-up that could go either way. We need Roberto Firmino and Roberto Firmino needs us, and if Liverpool’s calculated risk comes off, they could have notched the kind of star quality and entertainment value that was often in short supply last season.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo