As is often the case in world football, a few good performances in a big international competition in the summer can secure a player a big money move to one of Europe’s major names.
Whilst the description of Liverpool as a major European side is perhaps over-egging the pudding slightly, by capturing Roberto Firmino – amongst others – they are making a bold statement. And that statement appears to be that they are willing to pay £29 million for a player who has yet to really ‘do the business’ at the highest level as they battle it out with the EPL favourites.
Sure, Firmino looked a hugely talented player at times during Brazil’s recent Copa America campaign, operating in the old-fashioned ‘Number 10’ role to create a host of chances for his peers.
But with Liverpool – at the time of writing – lacking a natural goalscorer (Daniel Sturridge’s injury record is a worry), could Firmino’s creativity lack a potent outlet? Surely this is what the Anfield faithful are crying out for: an Ian Rush, a Robbie Fowler, a (whisper it) Fernando Torres.
But it can’t hurt to sign young talent with a bright future, so can Firmino become the Kop’s saviour or is he Brendan Rodgers’ last throw of the dice?
There’s little wrong with the Brazilian’s recent form for club and country: 32 goals in 73 games for Hoffenheim over the last two seasons is a decent record for an advanced midfielder, and 22 assists in that time shows just how creative a talent he can be. As mentioned, however, Liverpool’s main problem may be that they don’t have a centre forward to really take advantage of such probing.
Firmino made an average of 2.1 key passes per match in the 2014/15 Bundesliga season, which is a better rate than his new Premier League contemporaries such as Alexis Sanchez, Angel Di Maria and Wayne Rooney. Rodgers will certainly be hoping that he can make a contribution on a par with that glittering company.
Also worth noting is that he scored six of his seven Bundesliga goals during the last campaign from inside the penalty area, which shows that the 23-year-old is happy to get forward and take a chance in the box; an essential trait when supporting only one main striker as is Rodgers’ preferred set-up.
What is slightly disconcerting, however, is Firmino’s inability to recycle possession of the ball. His average pass success rate of 72.7% in the league is worryingly low; he wouldn’t even rank in the top 50 of comparable attacking Premier League players with that stat. Perhaps he is the kind of player who goes for that final, killer ball all too often then.
To The Future
At just 23, Firmino fits the bill as far as Brendan Rodgers and his footballing philosophy of bringing on talented young prospects is concerned – the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Emre Can are already starting to take shape nicely under his tutelage.
But there is that slight concern that the Reds aren’t signing players with proven top level experience; who have been there, done it and got the t-shirt. Those worries could be compounded with Raheem Sterling exiting Anfield stage left to follow in club legend Steve Gerrard’s footsteps.
Brendan Rodgers will be hoping that Firmino takes to the Premier League like a duck to water; or he could end up looking for alternative employment come Christmas time.