Roberto Firmino has shown Liverpool how to believe again and he is only going to get better


Think job interviews. Bag of nerves? Fluffed your lines? You didn't truly believe. Deep down, you knew -- a gap in your knowledge, experience lacking; you weren't comfortable you could do what was being asked.

How about the job you got? Purpose, firm handshake -- everything that tumbled from your tongue was the right words in the right order. You delivered because you knew you could. You believed.

Belief is central to every aspect of a football club for many of the same reasons – particularly at an elite level where any competitive edge is crucial.

If players believe -- in themselves, in their team-mates, in the manager -- it can take them to places way beyond the sum total of individual abilities.

And if fans believe, too…well it’s that holy trinity a certain Bill Shankly spoke of.

Leicester City: Premier League champions 2016, Greece: Euro 2004, Denmark: Euro 92, Wigan Athletic: FA Cup 2013, Wimbledon: FA Cup 1988 (bastards). On the list goes.

They made the impossible possible. They believed.

At Liverpool we know it well. Djimi Traore has a Champions League winners’ medal. Need I go on?

The squad that emerged victorious in 2005 had good players -- big Sami Hyypia alongside the tenacious Jamie Carragher at the back, the brains and brawn of Steven Gerrard and the graceful Xabi Alonso in midfield, the unpredictable but talented Luis Garcia, and the little heralded but ever dependable Steve Finnan.

Less mouthwatering, the squad also boasted Milan Baros, top scorer in the league that season with nine goals, Igor Biscan, who made more appearances in 2004-5 than Alonso, and Djibril Cisse, who seemed to have learned in his trade minus an understanding of the offside rule.

It wasn't the perfect squad by a long stretch as the league campaign that season -- featuring 14 defeats -- demonstrated.

In that European run though, everything came together. There was a defiance. Liverpool found a way. They battled, they fought, they dug in through Olympiakos, Juventus and Chelsea. It culminated in the greatest comeback a European final has ever seen.

It is, sadly, 12 years since those heady heights. Liverpool are on a new journey to belief under a different manager, with different players.

There is though a good vibe right now.

When Liverpool played this weekend’s opponents Crystal Palace at Anfield last season Jürgen Klopp complained of “feeling alone” as fans streamed for the exits when Scott Dann scored what proved to be the winner in the 82nd minute.



Then belief had been sapped. We'd seen it all before. Liverpool collapse and throw away points? Of course they do. Fuck this, I'm off.

Liverpool are a different proposition now. Klopp has earned respect. His teams fight. Conceding a goal isn't game over. They are capable of giving any team a game and on their day they can be something special.

The players have earned respect, too. They are trusted. And that feeds belief.

It applies to no one player at Liverpool more than Roberto Firmino.

When the Brazilian arrived for £29million in July 2015 it was a deal from nowhere – one quickly and fairly secretively tied up. Oddly rapid business for a transfer team seemingly so often caught on the hop.

So what was the catch? Had Liverpool overpaid? How had they lured him to Anfield without Champions League football?

He wasn't particularly well loved in Brazil, it appeared, and was a relatively recent international on his arrival as then the club’s second most expensive player of all time.

And so, years of mental torture came to the fore for fans again. Was this another 'big money flop' to use tabloid parlance? Another Andy Carroll fiasco?

One red-top newspaper listed Firmino as the most likely new signing to fail and only the Bundesliga watchers among Liverpool supporters seemed to offer light among the dark. A hard worker, they said. Not the most Brazilian of Brazilians, but a talented forward and a man not afraid of the dirty work.

A video of Firmino doing a no-look volley over his shoulder into a basketball net suggested at least some talent and trickery. So we waited and watched. Fourteen games in and no goals. The seeds of doubt had become roots of anger.

Footie fans shouldn't really stress over transfer fees, it's not us doing the spending after all. But we do. We don't want our club to be the dopes blowing a fortune on a dud. We want our boys to be the clever ones.

Firmino perplexed many fans at first. He didn't link with Christian Benteke and looked thoroughly disinterested in the prospect of doing so. Too often the question on the lips of fans in the early days was 'what does he do?’

He had his backers. But they could only point to what might be and could be.  

The turning point came at Manchester City in November 2015 -- a 4-1 win for the Reds, including a goal for the man now known and loved as Bobby. For all involved it was crucial for belief -- it's when the real Firmino stood up; it's when his pleasing partnership with Philippe Coutinho became clear. And it's when both manager and players could -- metaphorically at least -- turn to the fans and say 'see?'

Now there is a huge bank of evidence of Firmino's talent. We've seen his heavenly first touch over and over. We've seen him bamboozle defenders every week. We've seen him put the ball in the net with greater regularity -- and in different ways: lots of poacher's finishes -- right place, right time -- late arriving, back-post runs; tap-ins that only talent for anticipation allow.

And we've seen the spectacular -- like the scorcher at Stoke.

On top of that, as advertised, he grafts; chasing down the ball, tracking back, happy to work in his own half and willing to be the man who puts Liverpool back on the front foot -- so often an oasis of calm when there is chaos all around.

So what about cold-hard facts?

Back-to-back match-winning goals in matches Liverpool are tiresomely famed for struggling in?

Three goals and four assists in his last six games?

Or how about this one? Firmino v Sadio Mane. So impressive has the Senegal star’s first season in red been that many pundits suggested he was unlucky not to be in the running for player of the year.

No arguments here, he has been fantastic.

But... Mane’s stats read: 30 appearances, 13 goals, five assists. He has a pass success rate of 77.5 per cent.

Firmino, meanwhile, has clocked up 37 appearances, scored 12 goals and racked up six assists. His passing success rate reads 79.3 per cent.

In the Liverpool bubble, we believe. We know what he can do. Outside? It seems there’s more talk about his bookings for whipping his top off than his talent.

No matter, what’s important is it’s easy to believe now that there are better times to come -- for Firmino, for Klopp, for all of us.

The sides Liverpool supposedly can’t beat are being beaten. There is talk of more talent heading to Anfield in the summer. And Firmino? If his career at Hoffenheim is a pointer, it’s worth noting he had a season when he scored 16 in 33 Bundesliga games and six in four in cup football.

And he didn’t have Coutinho one side and Mane the other.



Since Firmino’s arrival no Liverpool player has been involved in more Premier League goals -- the Brazilian scoring 21 and setting up 13.

Can he get even better? Will it make Liverpool improve, too?

You better believe it.