In a free-roaming role under Hoffenheim manager Markus Gisdol, Firmino has become one of the most lethal players in the Bundesliga and here is a select statistical analysis of his season compared to Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Borussia Dortmund), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Max Kruse (Borussia Monchengladbach), Max Meyer (Schalke) and Raffael (Borussia Monchengladbach).
|League Only||Goals/Games||Shots Per Goal||Assists||Key Passes Per Game||Dribbles Peer Game|
One of Firmino's best attributes is his finishing and he is the most efficient finisher in league play when compared to Mkhitaryan, Gotze, Kruse, Meyer and Raffael.
From a Liverpool perspective, Firmino takes 4.5 shots per goal compared to 25 from Philippe Coutinho, which is the one glaring flaw in his game for the Reds: inefficiency in front of goal.
An example of a consummate Firmino finish is when he hit an accurate angled drive under pressure past Hamburg goalkeeper Rene Adler during Hoffenheim's 5-1 win over Hamburg.
In Hoffenheim's 6-2 win over Wolfsburg, Firmino had the imagination to clip Hoffenheim centre-forward Anthony Modeste's pass over Wolfsburg keeper Diego Benaglio.
Firmino has incredible awareness and vision in the attacking half.
He generally makes the right decision and his season was kick-started by a hat-trick of assists in a 5-1 win over Hamburg.
His first assist came via him forcing Hamburg centre-back Heiko Westermann to come forward, which enabled Hoffenheim right attacking midfielder Kevin Volland to make a run behind Westermann.
Firmino played a pass to Volland, who slotted the ball past Adler.
Take a look at the GIF again and you will see Firmino's attacking instincts as he makes a run off the ball and would have been free if Volland elected to pass.
Firmino's second assist was a pinpoint cross to Modeste, who had evaded the marking of Hamburg centre-back Lasse Sobiech.
Firmino's third assist showed selflessness when he dragged Adler out of position and teed up Modeste, who netted a second.
During Hoffenheim's 4-1 win over Stuttgart, left-back Arthur Boka was caught out by Firmino's instep pass, which placed Hoffenheim centre-forward Sven Schipplock through on goal.
When Hoffenheim drew 2-2 with Borussia Dortmund, the centre-back partnership of Manuel Friedrich and Marian Sarr was unlocked by Firmino's perfect through-ball to Schipplock.
Aside from converting goalscoring chances, Firmino and Coutinho are comparable players.
Yes, Firmino has four more league assists than Coutinho, but there is only 0.1 separating the two in key passes per game (a pass that leads to a shot), therefore Coutinho is just as creative of a passer as Firmino.
Firmino (4.2 dribbles per game) and Coutinho (2.0 dribbles per game) are both inventive and flair-driven players, who have the dexterity to glide and evade opposing players on a regular basis.
Firmino and Coutinho possess an all-round playing style and can slot in at multiple positions.
Firmino has started as a centre-forward, a central attacking midfielder, a right-winger and a left-winger in his career so far for Hoffenheim.
Firmino, 5'11", is bigger than 5'7" Coutinho, but the Liverpool player is a more economical tackler: 48 tackles, 10 fouls and a 4.8 tackles per foul average compared to Firmino's 54 tackles, 49 fouls and a 1.1 tackles per foul average.
Should his shooting proficiency drastically dip like Tottenham Hotspur's Mousa Dembele (scored 10 goals in 23 league games for AZ during the 2008-09 season; has not scored 10 goals in a league season since), Firmino has the passing range, the defensive capability and stamina to be converted into a box-to-box midfielder.
Doing Business With Hoffenheim
Hoffenheim have been hit-and-miss when it comes to signing Brazilians on a permanent basis.
Christian "Chris" Maicon, Maicosuel and Wellington Luis had short-lived tenures at Hoffenheim.
While Bruno Nazario and Guilherme Biteco have struggled to break into the Hoffenheim starting XI (Biteco spent a period on loan at Gremio and Nazario has yet to start a league game this season).
But when Hoffenheim have struck gold with their Brazilians, they have upped the ante at the negotiating table.
In 2011, Hoffenheim sold Luiz Gustavo to Bayern Munich for €15 [£12.4] million, per CNN.
Three years later, Firmino has gone from a diamond in the rough to Hoffenheim's most valuable player.
Hoffenheim have no intentions of selling him, if you are to believe Gisdol, his manager.
"These are just rumours [Firmino exit speculation]," Gisdol said, per Bild (h/t Thomas Zocher at Sky Sports). "Roberto Firmino is under contract at our club and he is a first-team regular with us."
However, Hoffenheim's precedent in cashing in on their Brazilian cash cows suggests if the price is right, they will fold.
Work Permit Complications?
To qualify for a work permit in England, aspiring Premier League footballers from non-EU countries must have "participated in at least 75 percent of his home country's senior competitive international matches where he was available for selection during the two years preceding the date of the application," per the FA.com.
Brazil's 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup golden ball and golden boot recipient Henrique Almeida, who was not a fixture in the senior national team setup, was denied a work permit which sank a proposed move to Queens Park Rangers in 2012, per the Guardian.
Queens Park Rangers fail in attempt to sign Brazilian striker Henrique as his work-permit application is rejected #qpr— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 23, 2012
Firmino is not a member of the Brazilian national team, so would he receive a work permit?
He would qualify for the "exceptional talent" visa.
That was how Chelsea signed Willian from Anzhi Makhachkala, per Dominic Fifield at the Guardian: "Chelsea busied themselves preparing a case for Willian to be granted a permit under the exceptional talent clause as he is not a regular with Brazil."
The German Bundesliga has 33.857 more coefficient points than the Russian Premier League, per UEFA.com, therefore if Chelsea can sign Willian, Firmino—one of the Bundesliga's best players—should be granted a work permit under the "exceptional talent" visa.
Firmino is a once-in-a-generation talent who can do it all: score, create, tackle, dribble and play multiple positions.
He is rising rapidly and Liverpool must make him a primary summer transfer window target.
He is a player who will enhance Liverpool as they strive to win the Premier League next season.
Saw Roberto Firmino linked with Liverpool earlier also. Would be a great fit for Rodgers' style. Can def make the step up.— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) February 28, 2014
Statistics via WhoScored