Nathan Ake has described the departing Roberto Firmino as one of his toughest opponents, declaring that the Brazilian can do “everything.”
The Man City defender singled out Firmino as one of the most difficult players he has defended against when asked about his strongest opponents.
The Dutch international joined Man City in 2020 in a £41 million move from Bournemouth and has faced a number of the world’s top strikers during his time in the Premier League.
In a recent interview, the 28-year-old revealed that Firmino was the standout name, having played against the Brazilian 11 different times and winning just twice.
Although, in those contests, the pair both have two goals to their names with Ake scoring for Bournemouth in his only two wins while Firmino has been on the pitch for the Reds.
“Firmino was always a tough one because he could do everything – cuts in, drops deep, very good with the ball,” Ake told Hypebeast.
It is high praise for Firmino, who has seen his involvement in the Liverpool forward line significantly reduced since the arrivals of Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo.
The 31-year-old is to leave Anfield on a free transfer this summer after eight seasons with the club, with Jurgen Klopp confirming “it was not an easy decision for him.”
Ake also named Arsenal‘s Bukayo Saka alongside Mohamed Salah as the trickiest wingers he has come up against since playing an increasing number of minutes at full-back for Man City.
Ake added, “Lately, as I’ve been playing at left back, players like Saka and Salah are very difficult as well.”
It perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise that two of the three players Ake selected are Liverpool forwards, particularly given that the Reds have provided Man City with their sternest challenges in a highly-decorated Pep Guardiola era.
Firmino combined with Salah and Sadio Mane to form a devastating front three which dismantled Guardiola’s side on multiple occasions, including an emphatic 3-0 win in the first leg of the 2017/18 Champions League quarter-final at Anfield.
Liverpool are the only other side to have picked up the Premier League title since 2016/17, falling just a point short of Man City on two other occasions.
With four starts in the last five league games, Ake will be excepted to line up against Salah once more and perhaps even Firmino on Saturday – let’s hope the Brazilian leaves one last reminder of why he is so ‘difficult’ to play against.