Jurgen Klopp may have just 41 days to ensure that he avoids his own Liverpool blow
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Jurgen Klopp was nothing short of stunned that a player who’d won just about every competition possible could be left at home for the World Cup.
Madness is how Liverpool’s manager described Roberto Firmino’s omission from Brazil’s squad for the tournament in Qatar. Such is the embarrassment of riches at manager Tite’s disposal, the Reds striker did not make the 26-man set-up.
“A blow, definitely,” Klopp said when asked about Firmino being overlooked. “You couldn’t see it in training, but definitely.
“It was [a blow] for me to be honest. I’m happy we have Bobby but he deserves it. I think he deserves everything, to be honest.
“It just shows how incredibly good and talented this Brazilian squad is if you can leave a player like Bobby Firmino out. Madness.
“Of course, we will talk; we did already, and will maybe do again. He’s fine but, as everyone can imagine, very disappointed.”
Just a day after Klopp’s comments, Firmino’s response to his Brazil snub was a paragon. Not only did he open the scoring in Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat of Southampton but he delivered a quintessential performance that underlined why he’s etched into Anfield folklore.
He’s been a lynchpin of the Reds re-establishing themselves among Europe’s gentry. Firmino might have been signed by Brendan Rodgers in the summer of 2015 but it was the arrival of Klopp a few months later that made the former Hoffenheim forward the player he is today.
Indeed, it was a blow that Firmino is not at the World Cup where he could have showcased his talent to a global audience. But it may be an even bigger blow if Liverpool do not tie down Firmino’s future for a couple more years.
Aged 31, no-one expected him to play such a prominent role this season. In truth, plenty predicted he would be fifth choice in the attacking pecking order. But injuries to Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz - coupled with Darwin Nunez taking time to acclimatise and serving a three-match suspension - have meant that Firmino’s felt as important as ever on Merseyside
During the heady two years when Liverpool were crowned champions of England, Europe and the world, Firmino was a formality to spearhead the attack and flanked by Mo Salah and Sadio Mane. They were as devastating a triumvirate as any, feared across the Premier League and the continent
After somewhat of a dip, due to the arrivals of Jota, Diaz and injury, Firmino has got back to near his apogee so far this term. Already, he’s just two goals behind his tally of 11 last term - and matched his haul of 2019-20. Firmino may not surpass his best campaign when he plundered 24 goals in 2017-18 but there's a good chance this term could be his second-highest total, which stands at 16.
Firmino’s game has never been based on raw pace or acceleration to dart past defenders - the attributes ageing players often lose first. It instead revolves around intelligent movement, hovering into spaces the opposition wouldn’t think to mark him to selflessly act as a conduit and allow others to take the glory.
His heatmap against Southampton, for example, highlighted that he was most often found on both flanks in the middle third of the pitch. Firmino had just two efforts on goal - and the one that found the back of the net had little right to go in such was the quality of the finish.
Linked with Juventus last summer, there would be plenty of top European clubs sniffing around on a free transfer. Barcelona have made it public knowledge that they want to sign top freebies given their perilous financial situation. From January, Firmino would be able to sign a pre-contract outside of England.
That is just one-and-a-half months away. Forty-one days, to be exact. Until that point, Liverpool will have just three matches and Firmino would have had ample opportunity to ponder his future
Granted, the Reds do need to trim the age of their squad. But Firmino's sui generis style means he's a different option to Nunez and Jota. And strikers can even improve in terms of getting better with age - or at least not rapidly decline.
Klopp has confirmed that discussions are ongoing with Firmino. Liverpool have bright, upcoming prospects including Fabio Carvalho, Ben Doak and Kaide Gordon who are the future of the front line. But experience cannot go underestimated.