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Roberto Firmino’s heir was staring Liverpool right in the face tonight

All good things come to an end.

And, unfeasible as it may sound right now, even Liverpool’s front three aren’t safe from the ticking inevitability of time.

The Reds will eventually, one day, have to move on from the Mo Salah-Roberto Firmino-Sadio Mane triumvirate.


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Cheerio… one day

EPA
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Cheerio… one day

And they could have done a lot worse than pay close attention to their opponents in the Champions League tonight.

Firmino is a niche; a complex cocktail of technique, composure and audacity but his heir to the throne may well be his rhyming companion Takumi Minamino.

The Salzburg forward has lit up the Champions League this season, actually scoring against the Reds in the pulsating 4-3 defeat at Anfield back in October.

Scoring at Anfield in October

Getty Images - Getty
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Scoring at Anfield in October

Minamino has the right skill set to play anywhere in Europe, comfortable on either flank or in behind – as he was in Austria tonight – the main striker.

His movement is exceptional, his touch deft and he has the end product to match.

So far this season he has nine goals and 11 assists in 22 appearances for Salzburg across all competitions.

Dancing round the Liverpool players

AFP or licensors
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Dancing round the Liverpool players

The 24-year-old tested Liverpool’s defensive line again tonight, sparkling in an even first half before the tiredness kicked in after the break.

His talent, as Rory Smith from the New York Times suggests, may actually be going under the radar while Erling Braut Haaland’s goalscoring exploits hog all the headlines.

Salzburg are littered with prodigious talents across the pitch but Minamino is their glue, their locksmith that links everything together.

In Mane and Naby Keita Liverpool have a track record with ex-Salzburg stars, with both joining the European champions via Southampton and RB Leipzig respectively.

A ready made replacement for Bobby?

AP:Associated Press
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A ready made replacement for Bobby?

So will the Reds cut out the middle man this time?

No player has played more minutes under Jurgen Klopp than Firmino during his Anfield tenure, which emphasises the size of the task to replace him when the time comes.

He is Klopp’s teacher’s pet and nobody personifies the German’s footballing mantra more than he does.

But in Minamino there is a ready made replacement who could come at a comparatively measly price.