He’s Here, He’s Ev­ery­where!

Pre­mier League de­fend­ers be­ware: Roberto Firmino’s back and he’s go­ing to run at you, and run at you, and run at you, whether you’ve got the ball or not

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS - Words Caio Car­ri­eri Pho­tog­ra­phy Dun­can El­liott

Liver­pool’s Robert Firmino will be on fire this sea­son

if Liver­pool’s Brazil­ian No.9 Roberto Firmino is any­thing, it’s in­dus­tri­ous. The 26-year-old’s con­stant har­ry­ing and har­rass­ing of op­po­si­tion de­fend­ers sets the tone for Jur­gen Klopp’s trade­mark ‘gegen­press’ ide­ol­ogy, mak­ing him a huge favourite of not only the club’s Ger­man gaffer, but also their loyal fan­base. FourFourTwo be­gins trot­ting out an oft-quoted stat – that, in the 2016-17 sea­son, the Liver­pool striker made more tack­les in Pre­mier League matches than Spurs de­fender Jan Ver­tonghen or Chelsea rock Gary Cahill. “Last sea­son as well,” the Brazil­ian quickly in­ter­jects with a play­ful smile and lit­tle chuckle. “And this sea­son won’t be any dif­fer­ent, ei­ther. I work hard in ev­ery sin­gle game – that won’t change. “It’s my duty to help my team-mates,” con­tin­ues the Samba star. “My move­ments are vi­tal to the other play­ers in our team, but it’s not only me – we all help the team by work­ing hard as a unit, fol­low­ing our man­ager’s tac­ti­cal plan, and never giv­ing up.” That mantra cer­tainly served the An­field side well last sea­son. The all-ac­tion Reds marched all the way to the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal in Kiev, leav­ing Porto, Roma and Pre­mier League win­ners Manch­ester City trail­ing in their wake en route to a show­down with Real Madrid. But after watch­ing 44-goal top scorer Mo­hamed Salah trudge off in tears due to a shoul­der in­jury sus­tained in a tus­sle with Ser­gio Ramos, Liver­pool even­tu­ally lost 3-1. Firmino names the home leg of their quar­ter-fi­nal win over do­mes­tic ri­vals City as a par­tic­u­lar high­light of his sea­son. “It was an evening full of emo­tion and adren­a­line – a high-in­ten­sity game,” says the Brazil­ian of Liver­pool’s em­phatic 3-0 vic­tory. “Both matches against them were good and it was a fan­tas­tic cam­paign over­all. But we can­not stop – we’ve got to think about the next one.” With his Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal dis­ap­point­ment – and World Cup last-eight heart­break against Bel­gium – now set to one side, it’s time for Liver­pool’s smil­ing as­sas­sin to hit the tro­phy trail again...

Liver­pool played some great foot­ball last sea­son but failed to win a tro­phy – what are the aims for 2018-19?

First of all, I hope we can have a very pos­i­tive pre-sea­son and pre­pare our­selves for the cam­paign ahead, which is what we did last sum­mer. From there, we will just aim to give our all in ev­ery sin­gle match, do ev­ery­thing we can not to lose games, and keep dream­ing big – mainly about win­ning tro­phies. That’s what we did last sea­son, after all.

“I GOT GOOSEBUMPS HEADI nG I nTO A nFIELD FOR THE MA n CITY GAME – MY EYES WERE FULL OF TEARS. THOSE SORT OF SCE nES GIVE A PLAYER EVE n MORE HU nGER A nD DE­SIRE”

You’ve come pretty close to win­ning ti­tles with Liver­pool dur­ing your three years at the club – be­fore last sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal, you got to the 2016 League Cup and Europa League fi­nals. How im­por­tant is it to win sil­ver­ware now? Win­ning tro­phies is al­ways so im­por­tant to Liver­pool. In par­tic­u­lar, the Pre­mier League ti­tle is some­thing we’ve wanted for a few years. We’re go­ing to fight for that ti­tle once again, but all the oth­ers too.

How did you adapt to play­ing as a cen­tre-for­ward in Eng­land, given you’d been de­ployed deeper in Ger­many?

I ar­rived at Hof­fen­heim as a mid­fielder, a No.10. I played in that role for three sea­sons, but in my last year there I started to move for­ward a lit­tle bit and played more like a No.9. To help learn more about the po­si­tion, some­times I watched YouTube videos of great strik­ers, but the vi­tal point is to keep work­ing hard and aim to im­prove ev­ery day. Since com­ing to Eng­land, my adap­ta­tion’s been as easy as you could pos­si­bly imag­ine. Ev­ery­thing fell into place quickly and now I find it a joy to play as a cen­tre-for­ward.

Did play­ing in a deeper po­si­tion ear­lier in your ca­reer help you in terms of read­ing the game as a striker?

Def­i­nitely. Play­ing as a hold­ing mid­fielder and of­fen­sive mid­fielder has given me more dy­namism and made me more flex­i­ble – that means there’s al­ways more I can do to help the team. Your re­la­tion­ship with Mo Salah and Sa­dio Mané al­most seems to be tele­pathic these days. Can the three of you form an even bet­ter com­bi­na­tion this sea­son, or you have reached your peak? It’s hard to say. All I know is I’m never sat­is­fied – my per­for­mances are never enough. I al­ways want to per­form bet­ter than I’ve done be­fore. I al­ways want to im­prove and be the best player I can be. The three of us prac­tise a lot, and talk a lot to de­ter­mine where we’ve gone wrong in the games we haven’t won. So we’ll def­i­nitely al­ways try to be even bet­ter. De­scribe Jur­gen Klopp as a coach... He’s ex­tra­or­di­nary – the best coach I have worked with so far. I have learnt so much in my time with him. He’s pas­sion­ate about foot­ball and al­ways shows it dur­ing the games. He’s as crazy and pas­sion­ate in train­ing as he is in big matches. He’s ex­actly the same. It’s gen­uine. He can al­ways get the best out of ev­ery player by giv­ing us con­fi­dence on a daily ba­sis, in each and ev­ery train­ing ses­sion. This is vi­tal for us. How do you man­age to com­plete ev­ery task Klopp sets you on the pitch? He seems very de­mand­ing... He al­ways de­mands a lot from the tac­ti­cal side of the game, mainly the run­ning. The tac­ti­cal side is the most im­por­tant for him, so we try to be as fo­cused as pos­si­ble on that side of things in or­der to win as many matches as we can. Klopp has la­belled you “world-class, ev­ery day”. Jamie Car­ragher has claimed you are Liver­pool’s most im­por­tant player. What does such praise mean to you? I was very proud when I heard those state­ments, be­cause they were a con­se­quence of my ded­i­ca­tion to Liver­pool. I have to keep work­ing hard to en­sure they keep prais­ing me like that. You’ve named the Cham­pi­ons League win over Manch­ester City at An­field as one of your high­lights of last sea­son– tell us a bit more about the at­mos­phere that night... I can hon­estly tell you I ac­tu­ally got goosebumps on our way into the sta­dium. What all the fans did that night was amaz­ing; my eyes were full of tears. Those sort of scenes give a player a mas­sive boost be­fore a match – they give you even more hunger and de­sire to go out onto the pitch and fight for your fans. An­field is the best place in the world to play foot­ball, there’s no doubt about it. The at­mos­phere there is in­cred­i­ble, and we al­ways get so much strength from our sup­port­ers in ev­ery sin­gle game. Play­ing for Liver­pool at An­field is a very joy­ous and pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

How does it feel hear­ing the fans chant “Bobby Firmino”?

I’m m al­ways re­ally moved by the af­fec­tion the fans show to­wards me with this chant. It just gives me even greater mo­ti­va­tion to bring more suc­cess to this club. Your path to the elite of Euro­pean foot­ball was long and hard. You left home when you were young, played for less fash­ion­able sides and fought your way to the top top. How proud are you to now be at one of the world’s most fa­mous clubs? I’m so proud to play for such a great club and for the na­tional team as well. I I’m very grate­ful to God for that. I love Liver­pool – it’s a great city to live in. The sup­port­ers are re­spect­ful and I like play­ing and liv­ing here. [ FFT: Have you been to the Bea­tles mu­seum? mu­seum?] Yes, I have been there – it was very in­ter­est­ing. I en­joyed it very much!

HE’S EV­ERY HE’S THERE,

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