Roberto Firmino celebrated the 500th goal of Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool reign with the manager himself, after a talk which revived his goalscoring form.
Firmino struck twice in the 4-0 thrashing of Leicester on Boxing Day, which brings his run to four goals in the last three games, with two winners at the Club World Cup too.
In his 25 previous appearances this season the Brazilian also scored four times, with muted criticism increasing scrutiny over his efforts in front of goal.
But rightly so, Klopp kept faith in his No. 9, as he performs a uniquely important role for the Reds both on and off the ball, so much so that replacing him seems impossible.
A natural introvert whose eccentricities come out on the pitch, Firmino rarely seems short of confidence, but speaking in his pre-Wolves press conference at the King Power, Klopp revealed a recent conversation of theirs.
“A journalist told me Bobby Firmino didn’t score for a while and I didn’t even realise,” he explained.
“When I think about Bobby, I don’t think about scoring, I think about how important he is.
“We had a little bit of a talk, because he looked, for the first time since I’ve known him, a little bit concerned about that fact.
“I told him that I’m not interested in that number. Because he’s the connector for our team, he’s so important for us.
“He’s not the only one who can play the position, but he can play the position in a very special way.
“He doesn’t have to come [and celebrate with me] everyday, every goal, but this time we had this little thing where he thought I was calm enough to leave him on the pitch in these games—I never thought about it.
“He thought he had to say ‘thank you’, that’s all.”
This will no doubt be described as a ‘heart-to-heart’ in the tabloids, but it seems closer to a frank discussion of a manager and player’s individual targets.
For Klopp, the priority is clearly Firmino’s pressing, movement, creativity and industry, with these irrefutable qualities outweighing his goal contribution—though he has been in Liverpool’s top three goalscorers every season since he arrived.
Only Mo Salah (84) has scored more of Klopp’s 501 goals as Reds manager than Firmino (74), and Robert Lewandowski (102) is the only player to score more throughout his managerial career.
And while the 28-year-old showed a vulnerability in his concern amid muted criticism, he has bounced back emphatically, and as is often the case this drought proved temporary.