Editor’s Column: Roberto Firmino’s new contract – smart choice or a familiar mistake…?

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I can tell you on pretty good information that Roberto Firmino will renew his contract with Liverpool.

We’re looking at two extra years on reduced wages, which will keep him at the club until he is 33-years-old.

Bobby has been the epitome of a fan favourite over the years. Not only has he won it all, but he’s scored 107 goals, many of them iconic, while providing countless assists and playing with the flair, guile and audacity of the Brazilian he is.

Virgil van Dijk recently claimed in an interview that Firmino is the best footballer he’s ever played with, in fact.

His legend then, is not questionable. Firmino has provided us with countless memories and has arguably the greatest player-chant ever heard at Anfield.

But the news of his expected contract renewal has divided the fanbase somewhat.

Before he departed, former sporting director Michael Edwards prioritised big contract extensions for current stars over new transfers. It’s led to an ageing squad with many of our starters over 30 and prone to injury. Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Mo Salah, Fabinho, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold all have huge deals with many years to run. Obviously, most of that list are world-class, but the idea that the squad growing old together being a primary reason for our poor start to the season has merit.

Of those names mentioned, only Alisson has been at his very best, with Salah only coming to the party after the first month or so.

Firmino, already 31, has been excellent this season. He’s scored nine goals in total from 21 games. If he carried on this rate util the end of the campaign, he’d hit double figures for only the second time in his Liverpool career.

So it’s not that Bobby is undeserving of a new deal, it’s what it represents. Does the money required to extend his deal and the fact that he’d take up one of the attacking spots in the squad mean Liverpool will continue to stagnate and fail to establish the much-needed rebuild?

Maybe, but my thinking is the Firmino extension is a smart one.

Here’s why.

The forward has never had pace. He doesn’t run in behind so this part of the game, which Sadio Mane has arguably lost as he’s got older, doesn’t matter with Bobby. His exquisite touch and vision is not something that’ll get worse. He might be able to press with less relentlessness but in truth, we’ve rarely adopted the manic, all-out press for a few years now – and as last season proved – it didn’t do us too much harm then. On top of that, his finishing seems to have improved. He’s never been able to strike a football especially cleanly, but his instinctive heading and one-touch finishing skills have looked better than ever this season.

Importantly though, he’ll be happy as a squad player. He’s never kicked up a fuss about being on the bench. Firmino will come on for ten minutes and be a very handy backup, assuming that with everyone fit, the ever-improving Darwin Nunez will be our go-to no.9. No player will ever play every minute nowadays, so capable, experienced backup is essential.

And think, are there better forwards than Firmino that we could sign for free? No, there isn’t. Not considering how comfortable he is in our system and what he does for the dressing room among the South American, Portuguese and Spanish contingent. If the wages are reduced, it feels a smart one for me, provided we’re extending Firmino as a squad player and will still bring in another attacker.

We probably need one more. Someone who can play either on the right or through the middle. Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Nunez and Fabio Carvalho are all good on the left, but only Salah really fits the right-hand inside forward spot, given Harvey Elliott is not a goalscorer. If we can find one of these, our offensive options will look very, very strong.

Obviously, it’s midfielders we need to focus on in January and next summer, given Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner will leave. But a new right-sided attacker to go with the Firmino renewal leaves us in good stead.


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