European champions, Fifa World Club Cup winners, runaway Premier League leaders and a matter of games away from matching Arsenal’s invincibles, Liverpool have seemingly forgotten how to lose.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have spent the last 18 months sweeping away everything before them, with the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah grabbing the goalscoring headlines, Alisson defying gravity in goal and Virgil van Dijk marshalling the defence with domineering control.
But what of Roberto Firmino? Don’t worry, we’re not here to discuss how the Brazilian is “criminally underrated”. That term has been put against his name so many times now that it really doesn’t count.
“He is the connector for our team, he is so important for us,” Klopp said of Firmino back in December. “He is the only one who can play the position, and he plays the position in a very special way.”
It’s well known that during his time at Borussia Dortmund, Klopp tried to sign Firmino from Hoffenheim, believing him to be the “best player in the Bundesliga”. You know, the Bundesliga that had the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery all in their prime.
That kind of praise certainly doesn’t fall upon an underrated player. That said, the fact that he has just 10 goals in all competitions this season compared to Salah and Mane’s 15 each does still mean he fails to take the limelight in the same way his teammates do — a fact perfectly illustrated by the fact he ranks as low as 124th on the Football Index* stock exchange with a buy price of £1.95 per share, £2.20 and £1.14 cheaper than Salah and Mane respectively.
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However, while Firmino certainly isn’t as prolific as his strike partners, it’s safe to say that when he does score, it usually means something. Of the 10 goals the 28-year-old has netted so far this season, eight of them have either opened the scoring for Liverpool, or been the winner in a one-goal margin of victory — the only exceptions to this were his goals against Burnley, rounding off 3-0 and 4-0 routs.
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Without those eight vital contributions, the Reds would be 10 points worse off in the Premier League, meaning Man City and Leicester would still be firmly in title contention, while they wouldn’t have sealed their first-ever World Club Championship either.
Perhaps even more importantly, every single one of Firmino’s eight Premier League goals have come away from home this season — only Jamie Vardy, Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (9) have scored more on the road in the current Premier League season — while his other two were on neutral ground in the Club World Cup against Monterrey and Flamengo.
Bobby scored a worldie. It was a super, super, super goal. A genius moment.
Jurgen Klopp on Roberto Firmino’s winning goal against Wolves.
Whether it be home, away or in far-flung Qatar, Klopp’s side have won indiscriminately this season but the latter two simply wouldn’t be possible if not for Firmino’s uncanny knack of contributing huge goals when the chips are down.
All eight of Roberto Firmino's Premier League goals this season have come away from Anfield:
⚽ St Mary’s
⚽ Turf Moor
⚽ Stamford Bridge
⚽ Selhurst Park
⚽⚽ King Power
⚽ Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
The biggest one yet. pic.twitter.com/lrQ0Tz2zeY
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 23, 2020
Firmino has often faced doubts throughout his career, mainly due to his lack of true goalscoring prowess. Former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia even had his doubts having watched the Brazilian during his time managing Bayer Leverkusen, but the former Finland international is another to have his mind swiftly changed.
“No, not really,” Hyypia said when asked if Firmino was “on his radar” at the time. “Actually, when he was playing at Hoffenheim, and I heard he was going to Liverpool, I wasn’t sure that he was going to make it.
“But now he’s developed, and he’s one of the most important [players].
“I was surprised and I wasn’t sure about him, but now he has shown that he’s a very, very [good player].”
You can bet your bottom dollar that the likes of Salah, Mane and the other headline makers at Liverpool will continue to sparkle as the Merseyside giants stroll toward that long-awaited Premier League crown.
But another thing you can absolutely be sure of is Firmino will continue to glue it all together and show up with the biggest goals just when Klopp needs him, without a care in the world for clamour or spotlight.