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
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,