Barcelona have Roberto Firmino in their sights, but can the Liverpool man be the successor to Luis Suarez they so desperately seek? We take a look.
Recent reports in Spain have suggested that Barcelona are laying down the succession plans for the under-firing Luis Suarez. Roberto Firmino seems to have emerged as the latest target for Barca, who will soon need to replace the former Liverpool superstar, who has been far from his best for a while.
Luis Suarez, who coincidentally joined Barcelona from Liverpool four years ago, is starting to show signs of regression, and has often been found wanting for sharpness in front of goal. To make matters worse, his abilities during link-up play have degraded to some extent as well, which must be starting to concern the Barcelona faithfuls.
While it is easy to comment that Barcelona must replace Suarez at the earliest, one must also note that the Uruguayan has an astonishing record of 155 goals and 86 assists in 209 appearances. And, it’s not just his stupendous tally that makes him one of the most influential players for Barcelona in the last half-a-decade.
The 31-year-old has also been a hard grinder when the Catalans do not have the possession, working hard off the ball to recoup possession quickly. This all-round game, in addition to his mesmeric understanding with Lionel Messi, makes it an almost impossible task to replace Suarez. But, this is where Firmino comes in.
Liverpool indeed grappled with similar problems when Suarez had switched bases from Liverpool to Barcelona. The likes of Rickie Lambert, Christian Benteke and Fabio Borini could never manage to match the lofty expectations of the Kop, while Daniel Sturridge became a peripheral figure due to his persistent injury problems.
Then came Roberto Firmino, who after initial struggles has been a revelation under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp. In fact, the Brazilian seems to have found his true calling since being deployed in a false nine role by the German tactician after largely playing in wide areas in the early days of his stint at Liverpool.
His development has surely been a remarkable one, with the Firmino now regarded as one of the best forwards on show in English football. The fact that Firmino has made significant progress over the last three years has now been vindicated by interest from one of the biggest clubs in the world, an outfit that know a bit about Liverpool and their superstars – Barcelona.
His underlying stats under the guidance of Klopp make for an impressive reading as well. Firmino has not just improved his goals tally with each passing season – 15 last term as compared to 10 in Klopp’s first campaign in charge – but he has also been better on the defensive front, averaging more successful tackles per season.
Another important aspect to be noted is the fact that Firmino has been the perfect foil for Mohamed Salah, who has often been compared to Lionel Messi due to his exploits last season. In fact, his on-field relationship with the Egyptian star closely resembles Suarez’s with Messi at Barcelona.
With Suarez now showing signs of a decline, the Brazilian international could, in theory, be the ideal replacement option for Suarez. One might say that Firmino might not contribute in as prolific a manner as Suarez, as far as goals are concerned.
But, a tally of 27 goals and 17 assists last season in addition to the player reaching the peak of his powers suggest that Firmino could take some pressure off Messi by contributing his fair share of goals, something that Barcelona are in desperate need of at the present moment.
Philippe Coutinho’s presence in the Barcelona dressing room should also make it easier for Firmino to settle at Camp Nou quickly. Additionally, his compatriot’s creative abilities should also aid Firmino in keeping up with Luis Suarez’s lofty standards.
In theory, Firmino’s move to Barcelona does make sense. And while the 27-year-old might not be as prolific as Suarez has been for the Blaugrana thus far, he can more than make up for it with his all-round abilities by linking up and setting up his teammates, thereby ensuring that the others share the burden with Lionel Messi.
Whether he becomes the third Liverpool player in five years to make his way to Camp Nou is a discussion for another day. What is clear is that Firmino can go a long way in replacing Luis Suarez at Barcelona in just about every way possible.