Who The Hell Is Roberto Firmino?
Liverpool look to have clinched their fifth signing of an already busy summer with the £29 million capture of Roberto Firmino.
He’s a relatively unknown quantity on these shores so we take a look at what Liverpool are getting for their money.
The 23-year-old has enjoyed four seasons with Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, winning Breakthrough Player of the Season in 2013/14 – the equivalent of the Premier League’s Young Player of the Year. He scored 16 goals and assisted a further twelve that campaign, and although he wasn’t as prolific last term, his form earned him a first call-up to the senior Brazilian squad.
Liverpool definitely need offensive reinforcements but Firmino is certainly not the out-and-out traditional striker that Brendan Rodgers’ side were crying out for last season.
The Brazilian is at his best operating in a trequartista-like position behind the striker, which it could be argued is already well-stocked at Anfield by the likes of Raheem Sterling and his compatriot Philippe Coutinho.
Of course, it is likely the former will depart but it will be interesting to discover how Rodgers plans to utilise his new signing having spent almost £50 million on Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic last summer.
No doubt Firmino’s defensive capabilities would have appealed to the Liverpool boss. He made an average of three tackles and one interception per game in the Bundesliga, over double Sterling’s Premier League stats.
His fitness record will also have been attractive for a club whose treatment room staff were on overtime last year. Firmino’s missed just one Bundesliga game per season for the last three years and certainly won’t suffer from Sterling-like fatigue. The pending medical on which the deal hinges should be a formality unless he picks up an injury at the Copa America, where he has helped guide his side to the quarter-finals.
His versatility will of course appeal to a manager renowned for encouraging a fluid formation and playing his stars out of position. He can play on either flank and, of course, has been used as a forward for his international side – scoring four goals in nine appearances.
However, at first glance, £29 million seems steep for a player linked with Manchester United just last week for around half that amount. At current exchange rates, the fee should beat the Bundesliga record transfer fee of €40 million which Bayern Munich shelled out for Javi Martinez in 2012.
To put things in perspective though, it’s only slightly more than the club paid for Lallana and they hope to procure upwards of £50 million for Sterling. Allied with the new megabucks television deal and the club’s relatively thrifty outlay on Danny Ings, James Milner, Adam Bogdan and Joe Gomez, it is probably a risk worth taking.
While they nabbed Coutinho for a bargain £8.5 million, the player’s progress had stalled at Inter Milan while Firmino’s is clearly on an upward trajectory.
A Sterling Replacement
However, Pool fans will need to be clear that they’re not getting another free-scoring Luis Suarez here. Firmino’s passing accuracy figures of 80% are almost identical to Sterling’s and their shot conversion rates are also similar.
Despite Rodgers’ protestations it seems the capture of Firmino marks an acceptance by the club that they will lose Sterling this summer. If so, they’ve acquired an exciting, more than capable replacement.
Now they just have to find one for Suarez.