Liverpool’s sale of Philippe Coutinho may not prove to be as damaging as their critics suggested if fellow Brazilian Roberto Firmino maintains his current form.
Much was made of the loss of Coutinho to Barcelona but the numbers being generated by his compatriot may mean the Reds move on quicker from that £142million sale than anyone anticipated.
Firmino has long been a favourite of manager Jurgen Klopp because of his hard running and ability to press at the head of the attack and despite initial criticism he was not a centre-forward, the 26-year-old is also delivering where it matters.
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His goal in an outstanding performance against Manchester City last weekend took his tally for the season to 17, 10 of which have come in the Premier League.
In 88 league appearances since his £29million move from Hoffenheim in the summer of 2015, Firmino has scored 31 times and provided 19 assists.
He is only 11 goals short of becoming the Premier League’s highest-scoring Brazilian – a record currently held by Coutinho who managed 41 in 152 (with 35 assists) albeit from a deeper position.
In the space of a few weeks a wider audience has become more aware of Firmino’s qualities but the praise now being heaped on the forward does not surprise Klopp.
“I don’t think that it’s possible that somebody could get more credit, compliments, praise, whatever you want to say as Roberto gets from us,” said the Reds boss ahead of Monday’s trip to bottom side Swansea.
Unusual celebrations inspired by Ronaldinho, evolution from an attacking midfielder to a striker and an insatiable hunger for improvement.— Liverpool FC (at 🏠) (@LFC) January 17, 2018
Don't miss our exclusive interview with Roberto Firmino, Liverpoolâs No.9: https://t.co/7lgd8Etu73 pic.twitter.com/feeCFOQTdA
“But it’s well deserved – everything. He’s a fantastic football player.
“You see him in training and think ‘what a work ethic, what an attitude’, and he brings it on the pitch as well.
“He never rests. You have to pull him out, you have to tell him ‘come on, stop, sit here, calm’.
“I hear in the stadium (Anfield) that people like him – good idea – but I have no real idea if anybody thinks he’s not important or whatever. I’m not too interested, to be honest.
“I’m pretty sure if I give the players the opportunity to have a free choice in training (to) build teams by themselves Bobby is one of the first they would pick.
“(It’s) nice to have him around – better to have him than in the other team. That’s maybe the best thing you can say about a football player.”
Another player who has raised his game over the last month is defender Andy Robertson.
The £8m summer signing from Hull made only three appearances in the first four months of the season but injury to Alberto Moreno gave him an opportunity and his display in the 4-3 win over City was his best since arriving.
“A lot of you (media) were in doubt about Alberto Moreno before the season and thought we needed to bring in a new full-back, which we did with Andy Robertson,” added Klopp.
“He was a nice prospect, it was clear he was a big talent and offensively skilled.
“Andy stepped up and did a really fantastic job. It’s really nice as a manager to be part of it, to see a player do that.”