Roberto Firmino is good at a lot of things. He can hold up play. Defend like a DM. Spot a pass. And even score while fixing his eyes at the fan section. Bobby can do it all!!
Unfortunately, a lot of what he does - that uncanny movement to open up space for his fellow attackers, for example - often goes unnoticed. It’s the yeoman’s work, the tough inches that yield major progressions, that are often relegated for people further back. The type of work done by, to borrow from the great Bill Shankly, the “other nine” and not the virtuosos up top.
But Bobby is different. He seems to relish that extra work. Seems to love to roll his sleeves up, put in a shift, and bask in the glory of the thing this team is building. An ethos worth honoring and one reflected in his manager.
Because of this tendency to that understated work, though, Bobby is often an after thought. Not that he’s under appreciated, mind. Most LFC fans - or, at least, those of you that end up in this little corner of the fandom - know Bobby to be vital to this squad. My personal sense is that he’s arguably the most vital piece in this attack. But he has certainly been eclipsed in terms of notoriety by Mohamed Salah and, at times, Sadio Mane due to the productivity of both of the wingers. A striker surrounded by slightly more prolific goal-scorers feels like an incongruity.
This unlikely scenario has meant that he’s also, unfortunately, been overlooked elsewhere. During this summer’s World Cup, Brazilian manager Tite held Firmino firmly in the tier just below his top XI. For most of Brazil’s run, Firmino came off the bench, where he contributed a goal to help Brazil advance past Mexico in the Round of 16. But it was clear, despite rather obvious improvements to Brazil’s team play when he was on the pitch, that Firmino’s full range of talent wasn’t quite valued.
That has, thankfully, changed as news has come out that Roberto Firmino has been awarded the Samba Gold award for 2018. This vaunted award is given to the top footballer in Brazil as voted on by journalists, footballers, and the public. Firmino secured enough of a tally among all three pots of voters to edge past Marcelo and Neymar, who finished second and third respectively.
It is a well-earned honor for the hard working Brazilian and one that hopefully means he has finally reached the point where people know exactly what he’s capable off.