Roberto Firmino probably wasn’t as thrilled as most Liverpool fans on Tuesday night.
All eyes were on his teammate Diogo Jota as Jurgen Klopp deployed him in the starting XI for the Reds’ Champions League clash away to Atalanta and it proved to be an inspired decision.
Despite the Liverpool boss shaking up the front three that has proved so deadly for three years, you wouldn’t have known that anything had changed with the Premier League champions winning 5-0.
Jota scores Liverpool hat-trick
Naturally, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane helped themselves to goals during the romp in Bergamo, but Jota was undoubtedly the star of the show with a stunning hat-trick.
As a result, the Portuguese joined Michael Owen, Yossi Benayoun, Philippe Coutinho and Mane as the only five Liverpool players to have hit a treble in the Champions League.
Nevertheless, many of the statistics surrounding Jota’s masterclass saw him compared to Firmino, notably that the hat-trick scorer has now bagged more goals than his Brazilian teammate in 2020.
Firmino’s role questioned
That is, obviously, pretty shocking when you consider Jota has only played 10 games for Liverpool and Firmino was widely panned for only scoring nine goals last season regardless.
It’s a fine balance between acknowledging that Firmino offers far more to the Merseyside club than goals and debating where you draw the line when your number nine is scoring so infrequently.
Well, we’ll take no shame in admitting that we lean towards the former, thinking that Firmino is being given a rough side and it’s a verdict corroborated by many big names in the footballing world.
Nine verdicts on Firmino
In fact, we want to take a moment to alleviate Firmino from all the criticism and direct your attention to nine famous figures in the footballing world who have spoken highly of him over the years.
“Firmino and Suarez as the best strikers in the world right now.
“Firmino is not just a striker who stays in the box all the time, he comes and gets the ball and creates the plays. For me, it’s really good to see Brazilian’s having this great success in the Premier League.”
Source: Liverpool Echo
“He’s fantastic and I didn’t know the words, I love it now you call it a workhorse, I understand the meaning of it. He works so hard for the team.
“He’s very important to Salah and to Mane because he drops back in between the lines to allow Salah and Mane to score as many goals.
“Origi, he can replace him and he can still score goals like he did last year in important games, but the style of play, the model of play, without Firmino they are in trouble.”
“I like [Salah] very much, he has huge potential, and Mane as well. But you forget a little bit, the guy who sacrifices himself is Firmino.
“And like Suarez did for Messi and Neymar, [he is] the guy who works for the team, who works for everybody and gets them to shine.
“This piece of the jigsaw is always very difficult to find: a striker who is generous.”
Source: Daily Mail
“Firmino was nominated for the Ballon d’Or this week and he deserves to be in that category.
“I recently heard a quote that I loved: ‘If you watch the game you don’t see Firmino. If you watch Firmino you see the whole game.’ Poetry. He is the man who makes Liverpool tick. He is a genius.”
“His movement, his work-rate, the way he makes the two central defenders move to allow Mo Salah to make those runs. Firmino is the most complete striker in the league.
“I’m not talking about the best finisher or the best work-rate, I’m talking about all round. The most complete in the league.”
Source: Sky Sports
“Any manager in the world would love to have Firmino as their centre-forward.
“I think he’s absolutely incredible. He’s selfless, brilliant, scores goals, sets things up, they can link off him, makes all the right runs, an outstanding player.”
“He does everything, and that’s the beauty of Bobby. He can do it all. He’s our first line of defence, and I’ve not seen anybody better at doing that.
“He presses the defenders and doesn’t give them a minute. He comes back and nicks the ball in midfield for us.
“He’s so important defensively for us, then he goes up the park and scores goals and makes assists. That’s what we need him to do. The work he puts in during games is probably more than any other striker in the world.”
Source: Liverpool Echo
“It’s just clever little movements. He’s so good. What he does is so important to what Liverpool do. When he’s not playing, it’s so noticeable. No-one else can do what he does.”
Too early to write Firmino off
Now, say what you like about Firmino and everybody is entitled to their opinion, but I think we should ease off the criticism when you remember how highly regarded he is by people in football.
Trust me, I don’t think nine goals last season is anything special either, but even I’m not going to argue too much when Henry, Kaka and Wenger are raving about his other attributes.
Therefore, even in a world where Jota does usurp Firmino, the only consequence would be Klopp’s bench becoming stronger than before and it wouldn’t be from a lack of effort by the Brazilian.