As the dust slowly settles and Premier League club Liverpool prepare for life without Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino, a new reality is emerging. Another team will sign a very talented player at reduced prices this summer.
Such was the understandable outpouring of emotion on Merseyside, the 31-year-old who came off Anfield on a free transfer has remained somewhat under the radar. Once the season is over, interested parties – and there will be many – will only have to consider his wages in terms of expenses. This is for a name that has won it all (with Liverpool) in club football and, more importantly, still has more in the tank.
Firmino has collected a Premier League winner’s medal, lifted the Champions League trophy, lifted the domestic FA Cup and Carabao Cup, helped secure the Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and Charity Shield triumph at Liverpool, with honors in his country the past five years. Midway through a disappointing campaign for the Reds, he decided it was the right turn to pursue a new challenge, perhaps his last as a professional.
So far, there have been tentative links with various teams outside England. In Spain, the name Barcelona has appeared since Firmino announced his departure. Italian fans and Turkish football team Galatasaray have also reportedly shown interest and could be outside bets. And there is always the possibility of a move to the Middle East and Saudi Arabia, as the league looks for more star players to supplement the higher salaries offered.
Of course, Firmino isn’t the only steal on the market. In terms of talents preparing to leave their teams on a free transfer, the list goes from Liverpool teammate Naby Keita to central defender Milan Shkriniar, midfielder Daichi Kamada and striker Marcus Thuram. Two celebs, Akriniar and Kamada, are set to join PSG and Borussia Dortmund in tow. After that, question marks remain over high-end options like Lionel Messi, Marco Asensio and Rafael Guerrero, whose contracts expire.
There is a case for making Firmino the best choice among that group – both for sporting and financial reasons. After a €33m ($35m) break from Hoffenheim, he has provided either a goal or an assist every two games on average. But its sophistication makes it even more attractive. In manager Jurgen Klopp’s setup, he was a striker, playmaker and tireless runner who could retrieve the ball or receive it from deeper positions. His salary requirements don’t come close to Messi’s either, as he wasn’t even Liverpool’s highest earner.
However, suitors queuing up will know what they are getting. A player with both flair and professionalism, Firmino is not a prolific goalscorer, despite wearing the number nine shirt for Liverpool. He is also not constantly available, due to his constant injuries in this campaign. For one reason or another, he is no longer a darling in the Brazilian national team either, and he followed his compatriots from afar during the recent World Cup in Qatar.
Is he still a good choice to lead Barcelona candidate? Yes. More importantly, he will almost certainly arrive if reports of him wanting to switch hold up. Blaugrana needs to cut expenses by cutting wage expenses and finding deal transfers. In this context, the signing of Firmino makes sense. Barcelona also opted for more experienced and short-term solutions than before – such as Robert Lewandowski – and went on to win La Liga. So he will try to repeat the same trick.
It all depends on the man born in Maceo. Talking to ESPN Brazil After his recent appearance at Anfield (Portugal), the emotional and laid-back Firmino didn’t give up much when asked about his next move. He said, “I don’t know, man.” “If not, I will say.”
One thing is for sure. With the arrival of new sporting director Jörg Schmadtke, Liverpool will find solutions in his absence. However, filling Firmino’s void will be among the most demanding tasks for him and the club’s entrustment. Your next employer, who is sure to be out of England, will understand why.