Roberto Firmino leaves Anfield as the poster child of Jurgen Klopp’s first great Liverpool side
On an emotional afternoon in May, Anfield bid goodbye to four senior players who have contributed to the club’s success under Jurgen Klopp in the last few years. The quartet won it all at Liverpool and played key roles in several campaigns but the home crowd had just one name on their lips – Roberto Firmino.
The Brazilian star arrived from Hoffenheim in 2015 as a potential star and eight years on, leaves Merseyside as a club legend. Few reds in recent history can claim to have enjoyed such adulation and it will be some time before another number nine captures the fascination of the Anfield faithful.
Firmino was in many ways Jurgen Klopp’s Batman- A hero capable of being what Anfield needed him to be. Whether it be no-look finishes or kung-fu celebrations, the Brazilian was box office. His beaming smile was as wide as the Mersey as he continued to score important goals and produce moments of brilliance that will live on in memory.
One does not have to look past his Anfield hurrah to write the script. Liverpool were in trouble, crying out for a player to step up, the fourth official might as well have held up the bat signal announcing Liverpool’s number nine’s arrival. He duly delivered, grabbing the equaliser as the Reds avoided defeat. While the draw will mean little in the larger scheme of things, it showed that despite falling down the pecking order in recent seasons, Firmino is still capable of turning the tide of the game.
We can confirm Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will leave the club upon the expiry of their contracts this summer.
Special acknowledgements will be paid to the quartet at Anfield, with further tributes to follow at the end of the season.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 17, 2023
When the Brazilian arrived at Liverpool from TSG Hoffenheim in the summer of 2015, there was some buzz. However, then-manager Brendan Rodgers failed to identify the genius at his disposal and often played him out of position. It was clear that the Brazilian was a transfer committee purchase and thankfully for Liverpool, they got it right.
The arrival of Jurgen Klopp gave Firmino the catalyst to resurrect his Anfield career and it was clear that he would be one of the players to lead the German’s revolution on Merseyside. Eight years on and 362 appearances later, the 31-year-old has 111 goals and 79 assists to his name, he sits proudly amidst the Reds’ pantheon of greats.
Players come and go in football and Liverpool have their own share of legends who hold a special place in the supporters’ hearts. Firmino ranks firmly in the list and his song will be sung with gusto for years to come.
The Hard Tackle looks at the Brazilian’s defining moments at Anfield, one from each season as he leaves behind nothing but an enduring legacy on Merseyside.
2015-16: A star is born
In Klopp’s first campaign as Reds’ boss, Philippe Coutinho was undoubtedly the club’s star player. There was little evidence otherwise to prove that a Brazilian would prove to be the German’s salvation but it would not be the club’s then number ten.
Liverpool showed more hunger under Klopp but the first vestiges of his tactical setup bore fruit in the Reds’ trip to The Etihad, where they dispatched Manchester City 4-1. It offered the world a glimpse of what to expect. The man at the centre of that dismantling was none other than Firmino.
The striker did not just open his Liverpool tally on the night but also acted as the connecting link for a fluid frontline. His guile and movement saw the Man City defence lost for ideas, leaving them all high at sea. Firmino would provide the assist for Liverpool’s first two goals of the night before making it 3-0 before the break.
#OnThisDay four years ago, we put in a big performance to win 4-1 at Man City 💫🔴
A memorable away day, including Bobby's first goal for us ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/Qgl5G7DpWe
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 21, 2019
This stunning first-half spell showed the impact the Brazilian can have when used right and also foreshadowed his transformation of the traditional number nine’s role. Firmino went on to put on other stellar shows against Norwich City, Villarreal, and Arsenal but it was at The Etihad that his legend took shape.
2016-17: Cometh the hour, cometh the man
Having fallen short of UEFA Champions League qualification the previous campaign, Liverpool’s eyes were fixed on a top-four finish for the 2016-17 campaign.
Firmino formed an excellent link with Coutinho and Sadio Mane, ending the campaign with 11 goals and 10 assists to his name. The Reds edged out Arsenal for the fourth spot, something that was unlikely at one point in time.
The Reds travelled to Stoke in April 2017 having won just four of their last 12 league games. The 6-1 capitulation at the same venue from 2015 was still fresh in the fans’ minds and their top four hopes were hanging by a thread when Jonathan Walters gave the Potters the lead before half-time.
Firmino was brought on in the second half and helped turn the tie around. His stunning winner wasn’t just a testament to his technical prowess but also showcased his ability to deliver when needed. He would go on to score the winner at the Hawthorns a week later before providing the assist for Georginio Wijnaldum’s opener at Anfield against Middlesbrough on the final day.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 8, 2019
The Dutchman’s goal calmed nerves at Anfield and put Liverpool in the driving seat for the fourth spot. His ability to not just score but also inspire others went up a whole new level this season and it is fair to say, the Brazilian has not looked back since.
2017-18: Allez Allez Allez!
The arrival of Mohamed Salah in the summer of 2017 heralded the coming together of one of European football’s most prolific frontlines in recent memory. The triad of Sadio Mane, Salah, and Firmino were nigh on unplayable at times and gained quite a reputation for being Klopp’s three-headed hydra.
Salah and Mane’s eye for goals meant Firmino would need to redefine his role in the front three. While he often started upfront, the Brazilian would perfect the false nine role, changing its definition as we know it today. It was also the campaign where he perfected the no-look goal, something that has now become synonymous with Firmino’s time at Anfield.
He thrived in Klopp’s gegenpressing side that defended from the front and attacked from the back. Firmino’s ability to close down rival defenders saw Liverpool win the ball further up the field, a lethal advantage given the presence of Mane and Salah. Add to it his ability to draw players out of position, opening up space for his teammates and it is clear to see his genius in play.
— supermane10 (@supermanelfc) February 5, 2021
The Liverpool front three scored 91 goals amongst them that season as the Reds made it to the Champions League final. While they ended the campaign without a trophy, Firmino’s unselfishness and ability to put the team before himself shone bright.
Having played as a second striker and as an attacking midfielder, Firmino was more suited than most to drop back and let others take the headlines. Strikers are often a greedy bunch selfish for goals but Firmino proved you can still do your job to perfection by being selfless. This was also the season where Firmino was handed the number nine jersey.
Liverpool’s front three would spend five seasons together, racking up an incredible 338 goals among themselves. One of the most prolific attacks in European football history, it is debatable whether they would have had the same success had it not been for Firmino. If there was any doubt before, it was clear now that Firmino was the club’s engine.
2018-19: Historic goal-getter
Liverpool have had more prolific strikers in the Premier League era but few who have gained the fans’ approval like Firmino. It is perhaps fitting that it was he who scored the club’s 1000th Premier League goal in the 4-3 win over Crystal Palace at Anfield.
The Reds pushed Manchester City for the Premier League title while going all the way in the Champions League. Firmino’s winner against Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield and his masterful performance in the quarter-final first leg against FC Porto eased the club’s path to the 2-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid.
Firmino also continued to score key goals, including the winner against Tottenham Hotspur before going off injured. The Brazilian continued to torment Arsenal and scored his first hat-trick for the Reds against the Gunners in a 5-1 mauling at Anfield.
Perhaps the most memorable of his moments this campaign came in the 2-1 loss to Manchester City that cost the Reds the title and an invincible season. Liverpool, despite the loss, pushed Man City to the edge and in the process, scored the definition of a team goal, something even Pep Guardiola would be proud of.
The sweeping move was finished off by Firmino at the back post and is one that will be relished by fans of the game for years to come.
2019-20: World Champions and the elusive 19th League Crown
Every player who was part of Liverpool’s 2019-20 Premier League campaign will be widely celebrated for their role in bringing the number 19 to Anfield.
The Reds’ won the league at a canter, showing incredible consistency over the course of the campaign. Firmino enjoyed an epiphany to score away from home and came up with decisive goals at Southampton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur, and Wolverhampton Wanderers. He also found the back of the net twice in Liverpool’s stunning win over Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
His standout moment of the campaign came in Qatar, where he was the catalyst behind the club’s first FIFA Club World Club Cup win. Firmino scored the winner against FC Monterrey in the semi-final before breaking Brazilian hearts by potting Flamengo to the sword in the final.
The scenes of him reeling away after putting the ball in the net in extra time is an image for the history books. Firmino added another chapter to the book by becoming the first Brazilian to net 50 Premier League goals following the 3-0 win over Burnley.
At that point in time, the Reds were European champions, World champions and had one hand on the Premier League title as well. Firmino’s goal against Atletico Madrid would also have meant more had Adrian not messed up, casting a pale shadow on an otherwise spectacular campaign.
2020-21: The winds of change
The 2020-21 season at Liverpool is largely remembered for two reasons- The injuries at centre-back and Alisson Becker’s winner against West Bromwich Albion. In an otherwise forgettable campaign, Firmino still found moments to stand out.
He scored the winner against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham before scoring twice against Manchester United at Old Trafford in a 4-2 win. The latter was the club’s first win at the Theatre of Dreams since 2014 and Firmino stepped up in what was a must-win game for the visitors.
This was also the campaign where Firmino captained Liverpool for the first time, away to West Bromwich Albion. It displayed his transition to a leadership role as one of Liverpool’s senior-most players.
It was also the campaign where Liverpool signed Diogo Jota. The Portuguese ace would rotate with Firmino, with the latter slowly yet steadily taking a backseat as a regular starter.
2021-22: Completing the set
The 2021-22 campaign will be remembered as the closest any English side have ever gotten to completing the quadruple. Firmino endured a frustrating campaign that saw him struggle with injuries and also jostle for game time with Jota.
He nevertheless came up trumps when needed and scored key goals against Porto, Inter Milan, and Benfica in the run-up to the Champions League final. While they did fall short in Paris, Liverpool went on to win both the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup.
This was not Firmino’s best season by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, it appears to have reminded the player that his role at Anfield is on the wane and it is time for a fresh challenge. It is perhaps apt that in the one season where he did not carry the club, others rose up to carry him and ensure he completed the set of all major trophies as a Liverpool player.
2022-23: The passing of the torch
The arrival of Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo coincided with the departure of Sadio Mane to Bayern and brought down the curtains on an era of glory at Anfield
Firmino as the senior most striker was largely used in rotation and off the bench. He still found time to score key goals against Brighton, Southampton, and Newcastle United.
Having announced his plans to leave Liverpool, the latter half of the campaign was more about creating memories. Putting the seventh goal past Manchester United while also denting Arsenal’s title hopes certainly is no mean feat. Fans will cherish those memories for a long time indeed.
It is perhaps apt that it was Firmino who saved Liverpool’s blushes in his final appearance in red at Anfield. The tears in his eyes as the famous arena belted out his song after full-time showcased the mutual love and respect he shared. One journey has now ended but it is time the club and player seek routes new.
One final selfless act
Firmino has always been a selfless player who had no qualms about putting his side’s fortunes ahead of personal glory. Perhaps there is no better example of it than his decision to move on from Merseyside this summer.
At 31, he isn’t getting any younger and is far from a first-team regular today. Despite his ability to still make a difference, there is little debate that he is a player whose powers are on the wane. Firmino has built up enough goodwill and could have opted to stay put and see out his career at Anfield. However, by choosing to move on, he gives both himself and the club the opportunity to write a new chapter.
The rise of Cody Gakpo in the false nine role in recent months also presents Liverpool with a viable alternative to the Brazilian for years to come. They might have spent just a few months together but the influence Firmino has had on the Dutchman is clear to see. While there is still some ways to go, Gakpo’s early performances are reminiscent of Firmino initially finding his feet at Anfield.
With him on his way out, he now gives Klopp and Liverpool the space to put together their next great frontline. You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain and there are no prizes for guessing the route Firmino chose.
For a player who got exactly what the club is all about, he gave it his all until the very end. Si Senor often attributes Firmino as being the best in the world, and there are very few who can do what he can.
Fernando Torres, our last prolific number nine was equally loved but his departure left a sore taste in the mouth. Fans may feel kindly to the Spaniard now, but will never reach the levels of adulation given to Firmino. The Brazilian truly stands in a league of his own.
End of an era
Few will argue that Firmino wasn’t Liverpool’s poster child during the Jurgen Klopp era. He arrived at the club brimming with untapped potential, mirroring the club’s situation at that point in time.
The years since, both Firmino and Liverpool have helped each other attain glory across all fronts. The fortunes of both club and player went hand in hand. However, all good things have to come to an end and it speaks volumes of Firmino’s character that he can accept the truth and make mutually beneficial decisions.
Klopp has often shown himself to be too loyal to his players, perhaps a trait that sets him back in modern football’s ruthless culture. Firmino has now made one decision easier for the German and in the years to come, it could prove to be the catalyst for Klopp’s next great Reds side.
A shy player of little words, Firmino often took to the field to voice his feelings. He ends his Liverpool career knowing he is loved and will be missed. Few players get their songs sung should they return to Liverpool in an opposition jersey, Firmino could certainly buck that trend.
Jurgen Klopp once reminded Philippe Coutinho that he could become something more than just a world-class player should he stay at Liverpool. Firmino achieved just that. A lesson lost on one Brazilian has been redeemed by another.
For now, the iconic number nine jersey will remain vacant. Whoever dons it next will have big boots to fill indeed. Every time they approach Anfield, the mural of Roberto Firmino will remind them of the legacy that can be attained should they embrace what it takes to be a Liverpool player.