What a difference five days makes. Whereas even the cheeriest Liverpool fan would have struggled to feign excitement about three of their first four summer additions being a Bolton keeper, Charlton defender and Burnley striker, a Brazil international and England right back are a hell of a way to improve the mood.
Nathaniel Clyne’s switch from Southampton to Anfield hasn’t been confirmed yet, but Roberto Firmino is signed, sealed and delivered (well, not quite delivered – he remains in Chile on Copa America duty) for the we-mean-business sum of £29 million.
As is traditional, there have been attempts to party poop, the most popular criticism perhaps being that he has never played in continental competition, instead spending his four-and-a-half years in Europe halfway down the Bundesliga table with Hoffenheim.
It isn’t like a £29 million fee that makes him the second most expensive Liverpool purchase of all time can be pointed to as a guarantee of quality and an immediate impact given that he is joined on that particular podium by Andy Carroll and Adam Lallana.
However, whereas they were overpriced Englishman – indeed Carroll had been capped only once before his record move – Firmino is currently a starter at an international tournament for the most successful national side ever, scoring the goal that won them Group C in his latest appearance.
Another effort to disparage the 23-year-old might be to claim that starting for Brazil doesn’t mean as much now as it did from say 1994 to 2002, though this overlooks the fact that, while their World Cup had an ugly ending, they still reached the semi-finals. They haven’t missed a quarter since 1990.
To sign someone of such stature is a huge coup for Liverpool given that they don’t have Champions League football to offer and have spent recent windows either overpaying for average talent (kindly financing Southampton’s Europa League squad) or losing out on top targets to rivals.
See Willian (Chelsea), Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) and Memphis Depay (Manchester United) for just a few examples from the past three summers.
Firmino is almost worth the outlay exclusively for the statement that capturing someone continually linked with the likes of Man United provides. Add in that he is actually a fine player too and you surely have the Reds’ best signing since January 2013, when Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho arrived, and possibly the standout of the whole Brendan Rodgers plus transfer committee era.
Over the last two seasons, the versatile forward (two of Rodgers’ favourite words) has contributed 45 Bundesliga strikes in goal (23) or assist (22) form for a team that never finished higher than eighth in that period. He was named the Bundesliga’s breakthrough player and Brazil’s leading overseas youngster in 2013/14, while also ranking as the division’s third most prolific dribbler in 2014/15.
If this deal has made you a believer in Liverpool again, you can find odds of [3.85] on them achieving a top-four finish in 2015/16.