The Premier League king of gegenpressing from the front is Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian international sets the tone for pressing like no other while contributing in attack. Firmino has been a favourite of Jürgen Klopp since the former Borussia Dortmund manager took charge in October 2015, and Klopp believes that the Brazilian was a bargain at £29 million.
Five goals and three assists in 1157 league minutes across 13 games results in direct goal involvement every 145-odd minutes this season, but Firmino does so much more. The 25-year-old will hound opponents, create chances, run himself into the ground, hold the ball up, link up excellently with his teammates, cleverly set up pressing traps, and carry the ball as needed. It's easy to see why Klopp was surprised that Liverpool picked up such a rounded player.
“The first thing I did when I left Dortmund, I took my phone and deleted all the numbers so I was not reachable. So I didn’t speak to anyone to offer advice, about Firmino or anyone else,” Klopp said.
“Nobody asked me about him but he was a player I thought was one of the best in the Bundesliga. So when I saw that Liverpool had signed him I thought: ‘How could Liverpool do this?’
“They were not in their 100% best moment and other clubs would have spent more on him so I thought immediately: ‘What a good transfer for them'. When I heard about it I thought they had made a good signing because I felt pretty sure clubs would have paid a lot more for him.”
The scouting that helped Liverpool pick up Firmino—an attacker that shone as one of the Bundesliga's brightest especially during his final two years at Hoffenheim—deserves much credit for identifying him. Firmino embodies many qualities that would translate to English football, chief among them is an appetite for hard work. The transfer committee was criticised for years, but Firmino is one of the committee's biggest successes.
“I can see in the Premier League you cannot have the perfect overview of the Bundesliga, and in the Bundesliga you cannot have the perfect overview of the Premier League,” he said.
“So you can know the Champions League and the players who are top-class but around there are so many good players you cannot know, only if you watch each game at the weekend. That is normal, and a lot of people thought: ‘Hoffenheim, where is this? That is a lot of money’.
“In Germany some people don’t know where it is but, if you play your football there, then you feel it is a tough place and so you know what a decent job the scout did, whoever brought him in for that price.”
Roberto Firmino is both a bargain and a welcome gift to Jürgen Klopp.