Securing the signing of Roberto Firmino gives Liverpool the most exciting signing of the summer so far and is a needed boost to fans who entered the offseason dejected following a poor season with a dire ending. It’s not just fans who are excited, either. Former Brazil midfielder Ronaldinho, the player Firmino calls his idol, is excited. And so is ex-Red Dietmar Hamann, who has kept a close eye on Firmino in the Bundesliga.
"I've seen a lot of Firmino and he's a player I like a lot," Hamann told the Liverpool Echo, who was quick to dispel any notion that Firmino might find himself bullied in the Premier League. "He's Brazilian but he has played in Germany for a number of years and I've been impressed by how he has developed. I've spoken to people who have worked with him and they say he won't be bullied. He has got more of a European than a Brazilian mentality."
A lot of noise is made about the pace and power of the Premier League, and while it’s true to a certain extent that England’s is a very physical and uptempo league, Germany’s isn’t far off. It may even be a little faster and more frantic, if a touch less physical. Despite that there hasn’t been a great deal of player movement between the leagues in recent years, there is likely no other major league quite so similar to England’s as the Bundesliga.
This bodes well for Firmino’s ability to make an impact with Liverpool, as does the fact he was Germany’s fifth top tackler last season—and the four players who made more successful tackles than him were all defensive midfielders. People who haven’t seen him play much may be surprised by just how tenacious and physical he can be, but Hamann won’t be one of those, and he sees a player with not only Brazilian flair but a good bit of steel to his game.
"He is very skilful but he also has the strength and the mentality to survive in the Premier League," said Hamann. "I watched him a number of times for Hoffenheim last season and I'm sure he will be able to handle playing in England. The Bundesliga is not a league where they don't tackle, the games are physical. I played with Elano at Manchester City and from what I see and hear he reminds me of him as a person. He's able to protect himself."
There have also been questions in some quarters about whether he isn’t one too many attacking midfielders for Liverpool; suggestions that Liverpool already have a player who does what he does in Philippe Coutinho. Which rather misses that while they’re both creative Brazilians, they have quite different games, with Firmino’s desire to constantly press on with or without the ball far more reminiscent of the departed Luis Suarez or missed target Alexis Sanchez.
"Physically, he's stronger than Coutinho and more direct," add Hamann. "When he travels with the ball, he can beat a player one one one. Coutinho and Adam Lallana like to set things out and bring others into play, but Firmino is more direct and he will look to finish himself. He will create chances but he will also score goals. He has played some games up front but that was more to do with Hoffenheim not having a centre forward who was scoring."
Not having a centre forward who can score sounds rather like the situation Liverpool found themselves in last season, and if it comes to that again, Firmino can at least offer a viable option up top—even if that isn’t where he’s best. No matter what role he takes on, though, he’s an exciting signing. The kind of signing many fans had given up on hoping a Liverpool side out of the Champions League could make, and as such he offers hope and a much needed boost to morale.
"He's the type of player I thought Liverpool wouldn't be able to get," added the ex-Red. "To get him is a real statement of intent and hopefully there will be two or three more big signings. I think people have been a bit disheartened over the past six weeks. We've needed a spark from somewhere and this signing has given supporters the boost they needed. When I heard that Liverpool had got the deal over the line it certainly put a smile on my face."