Empire of the Kop sat down with the superb Brazilian football expert @BrazilStat and spoke about what Brazilians think of Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Liverpool – and whether any more South Americans could follow them to Anfield!
Give him a follow and… Enjoy!
So, Brazil are now ranked no.1 in the world! How much is that down to the influence of Coutinho and Roberto Firmino?
Brazil has drastically improved since Tite took command in June. As coaching legend Mario Zagallo stated, he has achieved for better result with practically the same base of players that Dunga had at his disposal. However, Coutinho has cemented himself as a key figure in Adenor Bacchi’s starting lineup, perfectly applying the function of wide play-maker. At Corinthians, Tite always used a winger with the quality of an attacker (Malcom) and on the opposite flank, a wide play-maker (Jadson). Brazil’s 4-1-4-1 is reminiscent of his time in charge at the Paulista club. Although Philippe prefers the left-hand side at Liverpool, he was able to adapt to his role on the right flank in order to make room for him and Neymar at the same time. Coutinho scored Brazil’s first goal against Argentina and Paraguay, both from his own individual brilliance – shots from outside the box. It is important to have a player with his characteristics who can break the deadlock in tight games. As for Roberto Firmino, he has been Gabriel Jesus’ substitute, but this is mainly down to the youngster’s phenomenal start for his national team career. When Roberto took his chance in the false 9 position against Uruguay and Paraguay during Gabriel’s injury, he played an important role in helping Brazil achieve two straight victories.
Coutinho seems an automatic starter on the right of your front-three, but where does he rank in terms of squad importance? Right behind Neymar?
Right now, Coutinho certainly cannot be dropped from the starting lineup. When Tite first arrived, there was doubt between him and Willian, but the Liverpool man quickly took matters into hands and won the competition for the spot. Brazilian press is always raving about the young rising trio composed of Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Neymar. They are the favourite three players, it is their moment, and people have their hopes set on them for 2018. Unlike Firmino who left Brazil at an early age, Coutinho played for Vasco and he achieved some sort of local fame before he established himself in Europe. Whereas most people where wondering, “Who is Firmino?” when Dunga gave him his first call-up in 2014.
Firmino is a strange player who racks up exceptional defensive stats while not scoring that many goals. Do Brazilians ‘get him’ and understand his role?
Because Firmino never left his mark in Brazilian football before leaving to Europe, people still don’t sympathise with him. He still has a lot to do to conquer their hearts, unlike Coutinho who is already one of the most beloved players. You will hear several people saying they prefer Diego Souza – who is 32 and plays for Sporting – or Lucas Moura – who is having a disappointing season at Paris Saint Germain – over Firmino, but this is solely based on emotion rather than football understanding. It is the coach who analyses the performance of his players, and Tite made it clear in his post-match conference that he was very satisfied with what Roberto Firmino had to offer. Brazil fans always make the mistake of comparing any central attacker who comes up to the scene, with former greats who set the standards why too high, such as Ronaldo and Romario. They expect many dribbles and many goals. But football is not like that, and Firmino is a modern attacker with a combination of Brazilian improvisation and European discipline.
Can you see both at the World Cup in 2018?
If the World Cup was in 2017, Tite would certainly select Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino as his two main options for the central attacker role. A year is a lot of time in football, but Tite is not one who likes to make big changes. He usually sticks to what is working, so unless in case of severe injury, severe drop in form or the sudden birth of the new Pelé, Firmino should be heading to Russia with the rest of the group. He will most probably be the back-up option for Gabriel Jesus, but with a year left, many things can change. Tite will not hesitate in playing the one who is in better form, when zero hours arrives. As for Coutinho, it goes without saying that he is one of the essential players in the starting lineup. He provides difference making by scoring from dead situations, as well as playing an extremely important role when he cuts in to a central position and operates as playmaker in order to move the ball forward and help the build-up with leading into dangerous situations.
What do Brazilians think about Liverpool as a club? Are we considered an attractive proposition for players leaving South America now?
Liverpool are a very respected club in Brazil, because Brazilians appreciate football, so it impossible to deny the greatness of a club with such great history, and who is looking to rise again. Having their fair share of Brazilian players certainly gives that extra reason for local fans to be even more excited about watching Liverpool. Anfield is certainly an attractive destination for South Americans in general, but with the English FA’s strict regulations on handing work permits, young talents could face issues in gaining game-time following a potential move.
And finally.. which young Brazilians currently doing developing in South America should we keep an eye on? Who could be the next Gabriel Jesus and move to the Premier League for big money?
New talents emerge to the scene in the Brazilian league, almost every single season, and this one is no different. The issue is that the current rising prospects in the offensive sector play in positions that Liverpool’s current Brazilians already occupy. Luan of Gremio is an interesting false 9 option with a versatile skill-set, whereas Gustavo Scarpa who plies his trade at Fluminense, operates as wide play-maker on the right hand side, and scores plenty of goals from individual efforts. The biggest talent may well be Flamengo’s 16-year old Vinicius Junior, but Real Madrid has reportedly already contacted his agent, which would make his transfer complicated. A realistic option could be Santos left back Zeca, who has decent technique, play-making and dribbling skills. He played as right back during the Olympic Games in 2016, and helped Brazil claim gold. His teammate at Santos, gold medalist Thiago Maia, is improving every single game in midfield and has the potential to become a regular at Brazil’s national team following 2018. But for the moment, no talent from the league stands out with readiness to improve Liverpool’s starting lineup. If Liverpool directors were to invest in the Brazilian market, then it would have to be a long term investment with a tolerance policy on allowing the players to develop. If they are looking for immediate solutions, then Ederson (Benfica), Fabinho (Monaco) and Douglas Costa (Bayern) are perhaps a couple of players who can provide a quick impact.