Must be seen to be believed, a phrase you could best use for Roberto Firmino such is his subtle genius which keeps Liverpool ticking, as national compatriot Sylvinho attests to.
Liverpool’s No. 9 was on the receiving end of some criticism, from those who don’t understand his role, in 2019/20 after scoring ‘just’ nine league goals, in which the last was his first and only at Anfield.
But as those of the Red persuasion know, he is the space-maker, the selfless runner and a key cog which keeps Jurgen Klopp‘s side ticking over, week in and week out.
A camera lens struggles to truly acknowledge his work off the ball and seeing him play in the flesh can offer an invaluable insight into why he is so highly valued at Liverpool, as Sylvinho, who played for both Arsenal and Man City, learned when he visited Turf Moor in 2016.
“When I started working with the national team in 2016, the manager told me: ‘there’s a Burnley vs. Liverpool that it would be good if you could go to’,” Sylvinho said.
“It wasn’t easy to get to Burnley from Milan, but it was worth it – he was incredible.
“You see him play [on TV] and think: ‘Yeah, he’s very good.’ But at the ground? Wow. He does so much. I left there enamoured.
“The ball’s on the other side of the pitch and you see the way he moves, the way he’s looking to get away from defenders, the generosity with which he connects with team-mates.
“If you say ‘I want 40 goals’, maybe he’s not that striker but if you want someone complete, who generates spaces, goes outside, inside, buah! Brilliant.
“I left there in love with him. I went to Rio to do the report, and Tite said to me: ‘you’re in love, I can see it’.”
It’s a feeling many will share for the Reds’ leading man, with his consistency a feat to marvel at having featured in every game on the way to the Premier League title, missing just five of the club’s 57 games.
But he is not the only Brazilian Red who was on the receiving end of some praise, with Alisson next in line having worked alongside the former Barcelona defender with Brazil.
“Alisson and Firmino are humble, serious, hardworking people who bring a team together,” Sylvinho added.
“Alisson’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world even if he doesn’t ‘appear’ much. He doesn’t feel the need to tell the world ‘here I am’, doesn’t make a fuss or ‘sell smoke’, as the Spanish say.”
World champions, European champions, Premier League champions and two players who both finished inside the top 17 of the 2019 Ballon d’Or.