Born in the coastal city of Maceio, Firmino, like many Brazilian children, was attached to a football as soon as he could walk. Recent reports in his homeland have claimed that his nickname as a youngster was ‘rachinha’, which translates into ‘kickabout’.
After he had joined the youth ranks of local professional outfit Clube de Regatas Brasil, in 2009 he accepted the invitation to leave his family to play for Figueirense in Serie B – the second tier of Brazilian football.
However, that move was only made after he had failed to impress the coaching staff at Sao Paulo during a trial stint.
Firmino was an instant hit with The Fig Tree, scoring eight goals in 36 league appearances throughout 2010 to help the club earn promotion to the top flight.
The path from South America to Europe is a well-trodden one by footballers and it’s one that Firmino, aged 19, took in January 2011. Hoffenheim paid an undisclosed fee, although reports at the time suggested he had cost around £3.5m. Speaking about his side’s capture, general manager Ernst Tanner said: “Big clubs from all over the world were after his signature.”
Having been eased into European football slowly, Firmino showed that he had adapted to the Bundesliga by scoring 22 goals in all competitions during the 2013-14 season. Sixteen of those came in the league, which made him the fourth leading scorer that term behind Robert Lewandowski, Mario Mandzukic and Josip Drmic.
The goals may have dried up slightly in 2014-15, yet he still found the net on 10 occasions in all competitions.
More impressively, Firmino displayed his creative side courtesy of 10 assists – only Kevin de Bruyne of Wolfsburg set up more goals in Germany’s top division.
Indeed, he has shown a true unselfish side of late. According to the statisticians at Opta, Firmino has recorded 21 assists over the last two seasons, which is more than any of his compatriots have managed in Europe’s top five leagues.
Overall, the playmaker’s contribution of a goal or assist every 172 minutes helped Hoffenheim to finish just outside the Europa League places in eighth, although it was their highest position since their debut Bundesliga campaign back in 2008-09.
Style of play
As you would expect from a forward-thinking Brazilian player, there is plenty of creativity, flair and cockiness about Firmino’s game.
Yet, as far as comparisons are concerned, it is difficult to pinpoint a particular player, although in a recent article published in the Daily Mail, it was claimed that Firmino is more like that Frank Lampard than Steven Gerrard.
He may not be as prolific in front of goal as the former Chelsea, Man City and England man, but there is a resemblance. Like Lampard, he tends to ghost into the penalty area by making well-timed runs – a trait that saw him link up well with Gylfi Sigurdsson at Hoffenheim prior to the Iceland international’s switch to Tottenham Hotspur.
Quick off the mark, Firmino is able to burst beyond defenders before they have the chance to react from his preferred role in the number 10 position.
What is unusual, though, for a player in Firmino’s position is that he will not shirk a physical battle. While playmakers are often viewed as a soft touch, the same cannot be said of Liverpool’s new Brazilian. In the last two Bundesliga terms, he’s made 175 tackles ,a tally only bettered by five players.
Where will he play?
Over the past two seasons, Liverpool have scored 153 Premier Leagues. Of that haul Luis Suarez and Gerrard fired in 31 and 22 respectively, but both have departed. Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling (16) and Daniel Sturridge (25) have also weighed in, but one is expected to move on, while the other has suffered with major fitness problems.
Manager Brendan Rodgers admitted recently that it is an area he needed to address and while Firmino will not completely solve the problem, his displays in the Bundesliga would suggest that he can at least help.
He favours playing in a central position behind a main striker, but can also operate from a wide position. The fact that he is comfortable using either foot means that he can go both inside and outside of his marker, making him an unpredictable proposition for his opponents.
Firmino can also be used as a centre-forward, just as he has been on occasions at international level. Recently, Brazil head coach Dunga explained his decision to use him as a lone striker, saying that he “smelled of goals”.
If Sturridge can shake off his injury problems, it would not be a surprise to see Rodgers use Firmino in an attacking trio alongside the English frontman and his compatriot Philippe Coutinho.
Having never played in the Brazilian top division or for the Under-21s, supporters of the five-time world champions knew very little about Firmino prior to his first call-up in October 2014.
However, he soon announced himself on the international scene when he scored a goal on his second appearance in a friendly against Austria.
Since then, he has gone on to fire in winning goals against Chile and Honduras, which made it little surprise that he was selected as part of the 23-man squad for the ongoing Copa America.
His stock has risen even higher at that tournament, where he scored the goal against Venezuela that sealed the Selecao’s progression through to the quarter-finals.
In the absence of the suspended Neymar, it has been left to Firmino to spearhead the attack, something that so far doesn’t appear to have fazed him.