Jurgen Klopp has praised the impact of Roberto Firmino on Liverpool’s long-term development, and explained how his hat-trick against Watford will “help him a lot.”
Last season, Firmino produced his worst goalscoring tally since joining the Reds, netting only nine times in 48 appearances.
It was the only time the Brazilian had failed to score at least 10 times in a single campaign, having fired a record 27 in 54 games in 2017/18, and questions were rightly asked of his role.
With Diogo Jota not fit enough to start on Saturday, however, Firmino came back into the side for his first start since August 28 – and duly scored a hat-trick in the 5-0 victory.
Firmino has now scored six goals in seven appearances already this season, and ahead of what could be his 300th game for the club against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night, Klopp lauded his No. 9.
“Bobby was massive for our development as a team, absolutely. He is obviously a key player, very often the connector of all the different pieces on the pitch,” the manager told reporters.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t have a proper pre-season, then getting injured is not too helpful.
“But the three goals from the weekend for sure will help him a lot.
“I was never shy of putting praise on Bobby Firmino and his importance, so maybe if you forgot that then go back, you’ve for sure recorded something like that, where I said a lot of nice things about Bobby.
“Because he deserves it, he is our false nine and on top of that a very, very, very important player.”
The pendulum appeared to have swung for Firmino last season, as Jota struck 13 times in 30 games, but as the Portuguese struggles for fitness and form, another opportunity has opened up.
It would be a deserved start for the 30-year-old if he keeps his place for the Champions League clash on Tuesday night, which is a testament to his longevity.
His challenge will be proving that he can remain a key player for the long term, with Virgil van Dijk acknowledging that it had been a “long, difficult time” for his team-mate in his own press conference.
Clearly, Klopp feels Firmino can rise to the task.