The Reds boss says that the Brazilian brings a lot more to the table than just goals while operating as the team’s “connector” through the middle
Jurgen Klopp has expressed his belief that Roberto Firmino is “so important” for Liverpool while dismissing critics who have been quick to point out his goalscoring record for the club.
Firmino completed a £29 million ($38m) move to Anfield from Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim in 2015, after spending four years in Germany.
Not much was known about the Brazil international when he arrived on Merseyside, and during in his first few months at the club, he struggled to get to grips with the pace and intensity of the English game.
However, by the end of his first full season at Liverpool, the 28-year-old had endeared himself to the fans with his work rate and technical ability, with his best performances coming while operating as a false nine.
Klopp has been able to transform the Reds into Premier League title contenders and European champions since then, with Firmino playing a crucial role in their rise to prominence.
The former Hoffenheim star has only managed to score 68 goals in 220 appearances across all competitions, but he has been widely praised for his ability to link up with fellow attackers Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
Despite the fact that some pundits continue to highlight his modest output in the final third, Firmino goals earned Liverpool victory in the Club World Cup last week, and he took his tally for the season to eight with a superb brace in a 4-0 win at Leicester on Boxing Day.
Klopp embraced Firmino after the final whistle at the King Power Stadium, and ahead of a clash with Wolves at Anfield on Sunday, he has talked up the significance of the forward’s contribution to Liverpool’s cause.
“Bobby has scored four times now in the last three games,” Klopp told a press conference. “Before that, he didn’t score for a while and journalists kept telling me that. When I think of Bobby, I don’t think about how much he’s scored, but how important he is.
“We had a talk because for the first time since I’ve known him, he seemed a little concerned by that and I told him I’m not interested in the number. He is the connector for our team, he’s so important for us. He’s not the only one who can play that position for us, but he does it in a very special way.
“So when he scored, he came to me and he doesn’t have to do that for every goal. This time we had a little thing where he thought I was calm enough to leave him on the pitch in these games and he wanted to say ‘thank you’.”
Firmino will be back in contention to feature when they Liverpool host Wolves this weekend, as they aim to extend their 13 point lead at the top of the Premier League standings.
One man who could pose a great threat to the Reds is Adama Traore, 23, who is finally starting to live up to his potential at Molineux.
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When asked if he’d been among a number of high profile coaches tracking Traore’s development during his younger years, Klopp responded: “Of course, everyone knew him. At Barcelona, I saw thousands of players and he was there as a kid. I saw him at Boro, he was exceptional but someone had to give him the right information.
“Big big talent and you don’t think he’s young, but he is still very young. Now, he found the right situation. Everyone was pretty sure that would happen and now it has at Wolves. Makes it really dangerous. In a big space,
“[Jamie] Vardy is difficult to defend, but I would say Traore is even harder to defend because his speed is incredible.”