A professional footballer’s career is rarely a straight line from novice to superstar. And while it feels like the brilliant, quirky, bombastic Bobby Firmino was born to be a Liverpool legend, his rise to stardom hit some speed bumps along the way.
In a fascinating look at Firmino’s German career published in the Bleach Report, former Hoffenheim sporting director Ernst Tanner talked about how the Brazilian’s character and raw talent propelled him to take a chance on him despite some reservations.
Heading to Brazil twice to scout him in the second division club he played for, Tanner admitted that it was hard to get a feel for him because he rarely featured on the team.
“There was one specific session where I said, ‘OK, this was the right type of player.’ He’s bringing along the right mentality, he’s eager to learn, he works hard—what we saw in training was far better than in game,” Tanner said. “That was the reason why we took that decision. We had also sent a scout over, but his report was negative on him.”
Tanner’s instincts lead Hoffenheim to take a chance on Firmino, shelling out €4 million despite some serious fitness issues.
“You should have seen the data that we got on him when he was coming for the first time [to Hoffenheim]. In Germany, we usually do these endurance tests, blood ones, which are pretty accurate, you know, and he had the worst numbers I have ever seen in professional football,” Tanner admitted.
”I would say to emphasize that he was even worse than my grandma. You can’t imagine. They were so low that you couldn’t even believe that he was ever able to play professional football.”
It was Firmino’s professionalism and determination that helped to improve his fitness and make a place for himself in the team and eventually get named the Bundesliga’s breakout player of the season for 2013-14. Next came a move to Brendan Rodgers’s Liverpool team and the rest is history.
At 28-years-old, you get the feeling that Firmino’s story is far from finished. He continues to rip up the Premier League alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané. The kid who started, once upon a time, as a defensive midfielder is now one of the world’s most versatile center forwards. Hopefully the next notch in his cheetah-print designer belt will be the Premier League trophy come May.