Great piece in the Guardian today by Andy Hunter.
How can you not love this lad. My favourite player in the squad.
Ramos and the pre-Madonnas, won't be able to handle his unorthodox style - I'm confident he'll bring number #6 home.
https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/may/25/liverpool-roberto-firmino-champions-league-finalLiverpool’s Roberto Firmino: shy, strong-willed – and a complete strikerBrazilian’s influence and end product will be crucial to Jürgen Klopp’s attempt to win this year’s Champions League final
What distinguished Roberto Firmino in the eyes of Hemerson Maria were not two overhead kicks the 17-year-old scored against his Figueirense team, although they convinced the coach to sanction the teenager’s transfer from Clube de Regatas Brasil (CRB) on first sight. It was a conversation they shared several months later when he found Firmino alone, almost 2,000 miles from home and refusing to go back to Maceió.
“We had played a state league game, under-17s, and afterwards there was a recess, I think one week or more without any activities,” he recalls. “All my players travelled to be with their family, except Firmino. I remember that he was alone in Florianopolis. His parents had stayed living in Maceió. The last time Firmino had seen them was seven months earlier but he decided to stay in Florianopolis. He said to me: ‘I want to stay here. I need to practice more, I don’t want to lose time. I will stop only after I make something good with my life.’ I was surprised. He is shy but he has a strong personality and mentality. He knows what he wants in his career and his life.”
Firmino’s father, José Roberto Cordeiro, was a hawker on the streets of Maceió when his son started with CRB. When José went to a game at CRB, the club he supported, it was not to watch Firmino but to sell beer, water and soft drinks outside. He could not afford a ticket. A decade later there is a ticket with José Roberto Cordeiro’s name on. It is for Saturday’s Champions League final at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev. VIP section. His son, central to Liverpool’s hopes of defeating Real Madrid, has made something good with his life.
Behind the flamboyant dress sense, the bling, the maverick goal celebrations and the no-look finishes there appears a radically different side to the centre-forward. Shy. Quiet. Introverted. The words crop up whenever those who have been part of the 26-year-old’s career are asked to describe him. Or at least from those who will describe him. Firmino asked his immediate family and closest friends to politely decline interviews in the buildup to a final that demands singular focus. Nothing can get in the way of his dream. It has always been that way.
Nene Zini, an agent for Firmino, explains: “When he moved to Hoffenheim [aged 19] I asked him twice about how it was going, if he liked the city, the country, the new life. He was living alone, no family were with him there. I was concerned but he said he hadn’t any problems. But I didn’t feel confident so I said: ‘My job is to help you. Whatever you need, tell me. I will do everything for you.’ And Firmino replied: ‘No worries. I am fine. If I wasn’t happy I would have left the club and the country.’ I didn’t understand him then but I understand now. He is shy, a man of few words, but he has a strong personality.”
The Brazil international, selected for the World Cup following an outstanding season, is “a footballer from his head to his toes” in the words of Jürgen Klopp. There is no greater champion of Firmino than the Liverpool manager. “I order a song for Bobby!” Klopp told LFCTV this week. To him, songs for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané but only a chant for the conductor of Liverpool’s devastating attacks makes little sense.
It suits Firmino, however, to have Salah taking the spotlight. He revels in his selfless role even though, as the PFA Premier League team of the season testified, with Firmino absent, his influence can be overlooked outside Anfield. “This constant discussion about whether he’s undervalued or whatever in public,” said Klopp. “This never happened for one second either in the club or in the team.” Thierry Henry, a sound and independent judge, described Firmino as “the most complete striker in the league”. It is an education to track his movement and work-rate through a game, albeit also a struggle to focus on one player given the range of threats in Klopp’s attack.
No Liverpool player covered more ground in the Premier League than Firmino. His total of 347.7km is remarkable for a forward and underlines his importance to Klopp’s system and the manager’s reluctance to withdraw him even with a comfortable lead. He covered, on average, 11.3km per game.
No Liverpool player made more sprints in the Premier League. With 2,353, Firmino comfortably eclipsed Salah in second place by 366 and averaged 76.3 sprints every 90 minutes. No Liverpool forward made more interceptions than Firmino, his 18 double the amount made by Mané in second. Salah made five.
Firmino’s 15 goals and seven assists in the league played a major part in Liverpool qualifying for the Champions League. In Europe, however, Firmino’s influence and end product have been arguably greater. With 10 goals – 11 when the one against Hoffenheim in the qualifier is included – he and Salah have scored more in a single European campaign than any other player in Liverpool’s European history. Firmino has also provided seven assists, giving him direct involvement in 42.5% of the record 40 goals Liverpool have scored from the group stage onwards. “This is my best year as a professional footballer,” he reflected last week.
It started very differently. Hemerson Maria, coach of Vila Nova in Brazil, explains: “When we started to work together at Figueirense I called Roberto ‘Alberto’ for two weeks. All the time I shouted ‘Alberto, Alberto, Alberto’ and he never corrected me. I said Alberto and he listened and obeyed the instructions. After two weeks my colleague asked me: ‘Why are you calling Roberto as Alberto? His name is Roberto, Roberto Firmino’. I didn’t know! I asked Roberto why he never said the correct name to me. But he is very shy and said: ‘It’s fine teacher, no worries.’”
He may be more forceful when reminding Madrid of his name in Kiev.