Farewell Firmino: Liverpool legend and Klopp’s key

Roberto Firmino will leave Liverpool at the end of the season with the club having confirmed, as expected, that the forward will depart when his contract expires.

Liverpool’s home fixture with Aston Villa this weekend will be the last chance for the club’s supporters to serenade a fans’ favourite at Anfield, with the forward’s ‘Si Señor’ song set to be the soundtrack of the club’s final home game of the season.


Firmino will depart as a much-loved figure, a footballer synonymous with the highs of the Jurgen Klopp era. It is easily forgotten that the Brazilian was inherited, not signed, by the German, before evolving into one of the most unique forward threats in European football.

After his emergence at Figueirense, a move to Hoffenheim first saw Firmino register on the radar of Liverpool’s recruitment team. It was Brendan Rodgers – sacked just four months after his arrival – who brought Firmino to the Premier League, but Klopp who unlocked his potent potential.

His schooling in the Bundesliga had seen Firmino build a variety of skills to lead the line for Klopp’s improving side, a hustling hybrid of samba skill and German industry. If intensity was the mission statement of Klopp’s team, no player embodied it more than Firmino.

Perhaps no goal underlined Firmino’s fusion of traits better than his effort against Manchester City at Anfield in 2018. Liverpool blew away the then-unbeaten league leaders in an enthralling encounter, racing into a 4-1 lead with Firmino scoring the second.

Having chased down John Stones, he bundled the centre-back aside before executing an audacious scooped finish over the stranded Ederson.

That season was the first for Liverpool’s fearsome front three in tandem, as Mohamed Salah arrived from Roma to join Firmino and Sadio Mané. The former stole the headlines with a record-breaking campaign, but it also proved the most prolific season of Firmino’s time in English football.

The Brazilian scored 27 goals in all competitions, including 11 in Europe, as Liverpool reached the Champions League final. The Reds became the first team to have three players reach 10+ goals in a Champions League season, as their forward line wreaked havoc on the continent’s best defences.

Firmino received less headlines than the two team-mates who flanked him, but he was arguably the most important part of their alliance. Technical, tireless, selfless and intelligent, he brought the best from those around him and was the conductor of Liverpool’s thrilling front three.

Defeat to Real Madrid ended hopes of European success in 2018, but honours proved just around the corner.

A sixth Champions League crown arrived in 2018/19, before the club’s 30-year wait for a league title was ended the following season. Firmino was pivotal to that latter triumph, with crucial winners at Southampton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Wolves contributing to a title won with a club-record points total.

A first Club World Cup – in which Firmino scored the extra-time winner against Flamengo – and a domestic cup double have followed since and Firmino has been at the centre of it all. No player having played more games under Klopp across his entire managerial career.

His detractors often used a modest goal record against him, but judging Firmino on his tangible contribution was missing the Brazilian’s brilliance. It is the intangibles that
made Firmino a one-of-a-kind weapon and the key to Klopp’s Liverpool machine.

The move to a false nine position saw Firmino flourish, as he flittered between lines and drew defenders out of position, allowing the likes of Salah and Mane to burst infield into vacated spaces. Liverpool became a pressing machine under Klopp and it was Firmino who so often set the tone, the hustling heartbeat of the side and an example for his team-mates to follow.

Those who have worked alongside him in recent seasons are in no doubt of his importance, with Klopp having long called ‘Bobby’ the ‘engine’ of his side.

“Some players have the capacity to give joy to the people, others have the capacity to give joy and trophies to the people, but only a few give joy, trophies and provide a team with its whole identity,” Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders recently told The Athletic.

“There were some other false nines before who did it, but I feel privileged to be able to say that I was there when Bobby did it for one of the most iconic clubs in football. They say that the ball can only smile when the player smiles and, wow, how many times Bobby made an entire stadium smile!

“The smile, the unpredictability, the spontaneity, the street and the big heart. All of this reflects in his game.”

That spontaneity was one of the endearing traits in Firmino’s game, with wild celebrations and moments of free-spirited football earning him cult status on the Kop.

The kung-fu kick inspired celebrations, penchant for producing something out of the ordinary, and no-look goals all added to the appeal of a footballer who so often invoked appreciative applause around Anfield.

The timing of his exit appears right and has been expected, with his involvement reduced as Liverpool rebuild after an era of success. Firmino will hope to have recovered from a muscular issue to make one final farewell appearance. Expect him to be greeted with a rapturous reception as Liverpool wave goodbye to a modern great.

Read – Iconic Duos: Heskey and Owen – Liverpool’s ‘big man, small man’ combo that inspired a cup treble

Read Also – Midfield Magicians: Xabi Alonso, the grand master of 4D chess

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