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Introducing the ‘Firmino Role’ to finally recognise Bobby’s brilliance

Very few players have dominated a position to such an extent that the role has become synonymous with them.

In fact the ‘Makelele Role’ may be the only widely recognised example.

But Roberto Firmino’s rare ingenuity means we might have to add the ‘Firmino role’ to that exclusive club.


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It all started with that smile, that damn smile

Reuters
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It all started with that smile, that damn smile

Virgil van Dijk believes the Brazilian is the best player he’s ever played with.

Jurgen Klopp, who knew Firmino from his time at Hoffenheim, couldn’t believe Liverpool sealed the £29m signing back in June 2015 given their struggles at the time.

“When I saw that Liverpool had signed him, I thought: ‘How could Liverpool do this?’” Klopp said.

“They were not in their 100 percent best moment and other clubs would have spent more on him, so I thought immediately: ‘What a good transfer for them.”

One day son this will all be yours

AP:Associated Press
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One day son this will all be yours

Four years on and Firmino is the heartbeat, the fulcrum of arguably the best team on the planet.

The 27-year-old’s role in the team has become so nuanced and specialised that experts, as well as defenders, are being left perplexed by his performances.

Remember when Brendan Rodgers fielded Firmino at left wing-back on one of his final, dark days on Merseyside; a desperate 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford in September 2015?

Rodgers completely misused Firmino

Reuters
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Rodgers completely misused Firmino

The eccentric Brazilian is not just front and centre now at Liverpool, he’s here, there and everywhere too.

Firmino’s days as a ‘false nine’ are in the past. That term, despite being a modern term anyway, is too rigid to describe what he does now.

Cesc Fabregas at Barcelona was the archetypal example and possibly the first to perfect it.

Benzema has a claim

Reuters
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Benzema has a claim

But Firmino can be a nine, a ten, an eight and a wide option, sometimes in the space of a few minutes.

He will never take home the most prestigious individual awards because his brilliance is too subtle for many to comprehend.

Take Saturday for example.

2 goals and 5 assists already this season

PA:Press Association
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2 goals and 5 assists already this season

Klopp opted to rest his jewel in the crown against Newcastle with a jam packed schedule looming, including trips to Napoli and Chelsea.

With Divock Origi deputising and Sadio Mane through the middle Liverpool looked uncharacteristically sluggish.

Origi hobbled off before half time, and his loss was Liverpool’s gain.

Firmino produced a 55-minute exhibition, terrorising the Magpies’ defence and midfield and laying on two sumptuous assists.

Irreplaceable. Priceless. ‘World class’, as Andy Robertson put it.

His elusiveness bamboozles centre-backs and holding midfielders, who would much rather a more traditional foot race or aerial duel.

Those battles and challenges are more obvious.

Instead they become transfixed by Firmino’s movement, consequently vacating space for Mane, Mo Salah and co. to exploit.

Kindred spirits

Alamy Live News
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Kindred spirits

Since Philippe Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona his international compatriot has become chief creator at Anfield.

If you include his two assists in the Super Cup final, he now has five already this season to add to his two goals.

But it’s the other statistics that make him so special.

Tackle time

Reuters
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Tackle time

Last season Firmino was the only player in the Premier League to create 50+ chances and win 60+ tackles.

Many copycats have come close to replicating Makelele’s dominance in his position.

But there is nobody in world football who operates the way Firmino does.