Liverpool sold Sadio Mané last summer. Now, Roberto Firmino could leave on a free transfer. Jürgen Klopp knows what to do as his iconic front line breaks up.
Up until his recent calf injury, it would be hard to argue against the claim that Roberto Firmino has had a decent season for Liverpool.
The Brazilian had been the main beneficiary of injuries to Diogo Jota and Luis Díaz, with Jürgen Klopp altering his formation to get the best out of him. With Sadio Mané gone, and no suitable wingers for his 4-3-3 system, Klopp pivoted to a 4-3-1-2 and utilised Firmino in behind Darwin Núñez and Mohamed Salah.
This system change harnessed Firmino’s best qualities, also allowing Núñez and Salah to play closer together, and it worked. Then the World Cup break happened, with Firmino not called up to Tite’s squad for Qatar.
A calf injury has meant that since the resumption of the club game, Firmino has missed matches against Manchester City, Aston Villa, Leicester, Brentford and Wolves. Moreover, now officially in the last six months of his contract, he’s allowed to speak to interested parties.
According to online website Media Foot, Bayern Munich have registered interest in taking Firmino back to the Bundesliga, where he played for four years, from 2011 to 2015. Firmino still has a lot of credit in the bank within German football due to those early years in Germany, and Bayern clearly see there is still value in the Brazilian, despite coping with seven years of Klopp’s physically punishing brand of football. They made the same call on Mané last summer.
But Liverpool should still see value in Firmino too, and Klopp remains an ardent fan of the 31-year-old. “We had talks with Bobby,” said Klopp last month. “From my point of view I want him definitely to stay. It has no impact [Cody Gakpo’s signing]. If it affects Bobby then you’d have to ask him,” he added.
Sky Germany reporter Florian Plettenberg believes that Firmino is indeed ‘leaning towards’ signing a new extension at Liverpool, but nothing is official as of yet.
Despite the signing of Gakpo, there is still a role for Firmino at the club beyond this season. He may not be an automatic starter once Jota and Díaz return to fitness, but having him in the squad allows Klopp to switch formations at any given moment, keeping Liverpool fresh and unpredictable, something that hasn’t always been the case.
News #Firmino: He is still leaning towards a contract extension with Liverpool, he is happy but no fast decision. Talks ongoing and positive. But: He has requests from Saudi Arabia. Some clubs are pushing. But not Al-Nassr. #LFC @SkySportDE 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/B3h3t8QLhl
— Florian Plettenberg (@Plettigoal) January 4, 2023
Even if his legs begin to slow down, Firmino’s intelligence is still sharp, and it always has been his greatest weapon. He’s still the smartest of all Liverpool forwards, having been the brains behind the initial triumvirate with Salah and Mané, and if he’s in a reduced role next season, he can still make an impact. Furthermore, his jovial nature and contagious smile are surely good for dressing room morale.
A one-year extension would be the right call by Liverpool and Klopp. It adds depth to the front line, and it also gives the German coach the option to pivot systems. Keeping Firmino at the club would be a win-win for all concerned — Bayern Munich may have to make do with just Mané for now.