On The Move: Hoffenheim's Roberto Firmino
With a confirmed transfer awaiting the talented Brazilian after his national sides Copa America adventure, many are eager to see where the Roberto Firmino ends up. After a “He’s moving to England” statement from his agent, Roger Wittman, the spectrum of club choices has been somewhat narrowed.
The Mirror have tipped a move to the North West most likely for the ambidextrous Hoffenheim star and following praise from his national manager Dunga, stating he ‘smelt of goals’ since scoring 3 times in 6 appearances following his call up, Firmino looks likely to produce a record transfer for his current outfit, 1899 Hoffenheim.
The confident 23 year-old can be utilised as a false 9, 10 or a winger on either side making him appealing as he has comes with a preconceived attacking entourage.
With a battle of the North West footballing powers about to unfold, let’s take a look at where the best option could lie.
Before entering Manchester, Merseyside based Liverpool would be the most suitable option for Firmino, especially if Raheem Sterling heads for the exit door. The Brazilian could become a direct replacement for Sterling while also leaving The Reds with a hefty amount of profit, that is assuming there isn’t a monumental bidding war for Firmino. Moving to The Reds would also allow Firmino link up with his national counterpart Coutinho on a regular basis. For Rodgers it would mean he can take the creative responsibility of Coutinho allowing him to flourish even more. For the team, it would equal more goals as both Brazilians assist and score regularly, Firmino created 69 chances last season while Coutinho made 58.
Along with the Coutinho connection, Firmino would compensate for the lack of flair signed so far this window. Milner and Ings are both hard-working while lack the technical skill Firmino possesses. This combination may have a bigger impact than the one with Coutinho as the graft of the English signings would reduce Firmino’s workload, allowing him to focus on attacking play only, resulting in a better goals return for Liverpool. Signing the Hoffenheim star would also disperse any animosity towards Rodgers over his previous transfer dealings.
This signing would also bring its risks however. Having took almost 3 seasons to show his true talent in the Bundesliga, Firmino signed to the German club in 2010 yet was named in the Breakthrough team of the season in the 2013/14 season. The poor start sheds a bad light on his total goal return as well, only notching a meager 35 goals in 140 appearances.
The man from Maceió may also struggle in an arguably more demanding league and an intense training program to bulk him up may lead to injuries meaning the fans would only see glimpses of the talent that he so clearly possesses.
Other problems would include Liverpool’s failure to qualify for the Champions League, something which both Manchester clubs offer, and the fact that Firmino is not the vocal leader they need to replace the loss of Gerrard. Finance could be spent elsewhere especially as it wouldn’t be incorrect to say Firmino and Coutinho mirror each other’s playing style, meaning the Hoffenhiem star isn’t what’s needed at Anfield.
Travelling along the M62 from Liverpool would leave Firmino on Mancunian soil. A city split by footballing loyalty, one side with vast history, another pushing to create theirs. Firmino would have ‘The Matrix’ choice of a red or blue pill. Choosing red means Firmino joins Manchester United, the bookies favourites, although it is quite hard to decipher quite why.
Signs suggest that Louis Van Gaal is a fan of the number 10 as he fits the mould of the Dutchman’s ideal player. His outstanding dribbling talent which left him at the top of the table for successful take-ons by players under 23 betters that of any current United player. Firmino is also a combative 5 ft 8 player being unafraid to get stuck into tackles and battle for headers.
Firmino’s arrival could cause a ripple in the squad layout, leaving Van Gaal with a number of transfer options. If sticking with the 433 formation that did United well last season, United would have Firmino, Young, Di Maria, Valencia, Mata, Januzaj and young Pereira all competing for the wide positions. Young and Valencia seem to be admired by Van Gaal meaning their sale is unlikely. However that leaves 4 current squad players to sort out. Januzaj could be loaned with Everton the most likely destination. Pereira could also leave on loan although Van Gaal seems keen to push through academy talent meaning he could feature next season. The admiration of Firmino from Louis Van Gaal may lead to moves for two Champions League winners in Mata and Di Maria.
Signing Roberto Firmino would keep everybody on their toes leaving Van Gaal with positive problems, if there is such a thing.
Yet, the cost of importing Firmino may be an unnecessary one as United have such strength in depth. With Mata’s sparkling end of season form and the acceptance that Di Maria will shine means Firmino could prove to be a worthless addition. Spending big on world beaters such as Gareth Bale may be more useful than a less expensive Brazilian import that would only play second fiddle.
Choosing the blue pill would leave Firmino at Manchester City. The Arab owned Citizens would present Firmino with the potential for much more playing time, while also offering the Champions League challenge. With Navas playing poorly it would be easy for Firmino to replace the Spaniard in the starting 11 and the 23 year-old would also take the creative pressure of David Silva. The addition of the Brazilians goals may mean City can outscore their rivals to the title. In addition, the lucrative wages on offer may be an underlying factor in the move, even though fans would hope he doesn’t move for the money.
An attractive club for Firmino switches as he becomes an attractive signing for the club. Having come 3rd in the Bundesliga assists ranking, Firmino is a much cheaper option to the table leader Kevin De Bruyne, and City’s other target Raheem Sterling. The latter two could end up costing around £40 million which would cripple City if it caused them to overstep FFP regulations. Firmino would cost less than half of what Sterling and De Bruyne could cost making him a much more viable option. In addition to his smaller price tag, Firmino offers more variety in playing positions allowing Pellegrini to tinker with his lineup more often to fit the best players in.
However, the move could leave City struggling with FFP if they have to fight for Firmino in a bidding war. Another regulation would also be in trouble of being broken as Firmino doesn’t fill out City’s homegrown quota which may result in star players being left out the already over capacity squad, as shown by Sagna being removed from the Champions League squad in January. Depending on the intricate depth of FFP, paying an increased sum for Sterling may be more beneficial than saving on Firmino.
For Firmino, the step up between his current outfit, Hoffenheim, and Champions League competitors, Manchester City, may prove to be to big allowing Liverpool to benefit from their own failure to qualify for Europe’s top competition.
With a lot to consider for the man ‘moving to England’, lets just hope the club he chooses allows him to convey the ambidextrous magic he holds in his flamboyant Brazilian feet.
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