Amid Liverpool’s impressive recent transfer business and the emergence of Diogo Jota as a top class striker, many have been quick to write off Roberto Firmino. He proved that might have been premature on Tuesday night in the Champions League at San Siro.
That isn’t without justification, however; while his goal involvements have dwindled this season and niggling injuries have stemmed his involvement, those around him have continued contributing at a hugely impressive rate.
Even with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane at the peaks of their powers, there has been incessant speculation that Liverpool plan to move on from a triumvirate that has served them so well, and indeed deals have been completed for the likes of Jota and winger Luis Diaz to evidence that.
90min revealed on Tuesday that Ajax sensation Antony could be next through the door as an heir to one of the wing positions, with the Reds among a number of leading Premier League clubs watching the Brazilian.
With all the noise, Firmino could not have timed his match-winning cameo against Inter any better.
Left out of the starting lineup in Milan for the aforementioned Jota, who was withdrawn due to an ankle injury, Firmino was thrown on as a half-time substitute and proved his worth.
The 30-year-old striker brings an almost unique skillset, and although he initially struggled to find his rhythm with the frenetic pace of the match, it turned out he was exactly the cool-headed workhorse required to get a difficult job done.
In just 45 minutes on the pitch, Firmino engaged in 15 duels – 13 on the ground and two in the air – and while he wasn’t always successful, his mere presence disrupted the Nerazzurri’s flow having been in the ascendancy.
He was on hand to provide the winner, too – a moment that turned the tide of the tie and was huge in the circumstances as Liverpool had struggled to create anything of note half an hour into the second period.
From a perfect Andy Robertson corner with 15 minutes to go, Firmino made an intelligent dart to the front post and gained a yard on marker Alessandro Bastoni. Known for his deft footwork, the striker demonstrated he is capable with his head too, rising at the front post and flicking the ball across the six-yard box, beyond the despairing dive of Samir Handanovic and into the corner.
Another moment of pure class from a player who has plenty in his portfolio, and an inspired substitution from Klopp.
While the narrative that Liverpool are looking to the future may seem a comfortable fit, Firmino demonstrated that Liverpool’s wealth of depth will be a significant threat in the present and short-term future. He’s not going anywhere just yet.
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