Wednesday, 24 June 2015

All you need to know about new Liverpool signing Roberto Firmino

The 23-year-old is a forward with the ability to create chances for others, but he is not the striker to end Brendan Rodgers' search for a prolific goalscorer this summerA young man is thrust into the limelight and expected to produce for what had previously been regarded in some quarters as a one-man team. Raheem Sterling attempted to play this role for Liverpool under heavy pressure to perform following the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona. Roberto Firmino is currently doing it for Brazil in the wake of Neymar's suspension at the Copa America.
Now one could be about to replace the other at club level, with Liverpool pre-emptively using the funds of Sterling's inevitable exit to buy the in-demand forward of high potential from Hoffenheim. 
Your average Liverpool fan probably knows as much about Firmino as your average Brazil fan. He was one of the players relatively unknown to the Brazilian public, brought into the squad to replenish it after the punishment of the 2014 World Cup.
Fred, the immobile centre forward, retired from international football and a more nimble, dexterous player in Firmino was summoned. Since his introduction to the Brazil squad, no player has scored more goals than his total of four in nine caps for the Seleccao - Neymar included. He is only now making his presence felt in his native land.
He spent only one season playing senior football in his home country and that was as an 18-year-old learning his trade in Serie B with Figueirense, with whom he gained promotion to the top flight. Hoffenheim struck fast, beating off what they claimed to be a host of top clubs to secure his signature for some €4 million [£2.8m] in December 2010.
Firmino has matured since, not in a fashion dissimilar to his German peers. The Bundesliga is an ideal development ground for promising starlets and he had gradually developed into the player he is today.
Firmino excelled at Hoffenheim as a facilitator as much as a goalscorer, and much of the heavy lifting in an attacking sense was left to the Brazilian and his partner in crime Kevin Volland up front. If Hoffenheim's midfield could work the ball to either of the pair, a combination between them would usually result in a chance on goal. Between them they were responsible for over 50 per cent of the club's goal output last season. 
Volland would occupy the space on the right side of attack and cut in for shots and through balls on his left foot. Firmino would occasionally do similar on the other side, but was used extensively in the centre by coach Markus Gisdol. Up front, a striker like Adam Szalai or Anthony Modeste would be the reference point to receive Firmino's passes or benefit from his dribbles. 
At Liverpool, with the space left by Sterling, he will probably line up from the left or else interchange with his compatriot and international team-mate Philippe Coutinho. He has proven already for his national team that he can play in the same team as Liverpool's player of the year without interrupting his work.
Firmino, for Brazil, is generally named as a centre-forward beside Neymar, with Coutinho or another playmaker occupying the left flank or space in behind. It is no surprise, however, to see Coutinho end up in a more central position, with his compatriot working from the wings.
What he will not do, though, is provide a consistent remedy for Brendan Rodgers in a striking sense. He worked best for Hoffenheim with a centre-forward ahead of him and scored a modest seven league goals last season. He does not have the physique nor the game to lead the line as an orthodox forward all season long and would be a creator in the main instead of a scorer to which his 10 Bundesliga assists would attest.
Nonetheless, he can be said to possess a poacher's instinct, even if that missed chance in the group stage defeat to Colombia will be replayed ceaselessly by rival fans attempting to downplay the significance of his Anfield arrival.
More illustrative are his goals for his national team. Following the only goal in a hollow 1-0 victory over Honduras in a Copa warm up, he met Willian's cross on Sunday against Venezuela with impeccable timing. His first for the five-time world champions is also worth a look; a stunning long-range effort from outside the box against Austria. His goal against Chile in March at the Emirates had Brazil coach Dunga purring that he was destined for bigger and better things.
Hoffenheim had on their hands a player of extraordinary potential that they knew was not long for the village in which he played. A club like theirs would never in their wildest dreams have imagined possessing Brazil's centre-forward in their starting XI.
When he was first called into the Brazil team he posted a message on the Hoffenheim website stating his thanks to the club for helping him achieve his dream. 
Hoffenheim weighed up their faliure to reach Europe last season and realised that the re-investment of any Firmino transfer fee would be in the long-term interests of the club.
They are no longer the free-spending upstarts of Dietmar Hopp which first appeared on the Bundesliga scene in 2009; they are now attempting to straighten the books.
A German-record sale, rising to £29 million will go a long way towards doing just that.

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