Liverpool have agreed a fee for Roberto Firmino, the hottest of Hoffenheim’s property. If the reports indicating the £18m deal are true, then it’s time for Liverpool fans to do one of two things: rejoice at the capture of a sought-after talent, or panic that Brendan Rodgers’ attack is becoming very one-dimensional.
Firmino, an attacking midfielder of repute who has just completed his fifth season with the Bundesliga club and is playing for Brazil in the Copa America, has been pursued by plenty of big clubs this summer. Manchester United were definitely one of them. On that basis, signing the 23-year-old is a coup.
However, there is a man in Liverpool’s squad named Philippe Coutinho. He is a 23-year-old attacking midfielder of repute, also playing for Brazil at the Copa America, who has just finished a campaign in which he was named in the PFA Team of the Year and scooped both the Liverpool Player and Players’ Player of the Year awards.
In the same way that you’d rarely find a sandwich using butter on one half and margarine on the other, football teams hardly ever play two players who operate in the same position and perform the same role, unless we suddenly find ourselves back watching England’s infamous Golden Generation that won everything in sight…
At the outset, then, the pursuit of such a costly target seems flawed from a Liverpool perspective, unless Rodgers intends to replace Raheem Sterling with Firmino. Even then, that would be a counterproductive move, as Hoffenheim have enjoyed the best of the nine-cap international when playing him as a number 10, not out wide or as a false nine.
Perhaps Coutinho would be the one to shift towards the touchline, but then why spend big on the likes of Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana if not to give them the chance to shine when a spot in their natural position opens up?
It’s arguable that Coutinho is the man Rodgers can build his 2/1 top-four challengers around now that Steven Gerrard has departed the scene. Steering clear of signing Firmino gives the Northern Irishman the best opportunity to do that, without a carbon-copy player clouding his team selection and pressuring him to share playing time.
Instead, why not save the £18m and spend it on areas of the team that really need investment, like finding Daniel Sturridge a reliable wingman again, or discovering a centre-back that can help Simon Mignolet sleep better at night?
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