Brazilian bravado shrouded in German efficacy; for opponents, Liverpool’s Bob Firmino is player that hangs on to the fringes of the frame of your television.
It starts off like any other alien-themed movie from the 70s. It comes in peace and with manners disarming. The fact that it made it this far from his homeworld, alone warrants a standoffish sort of respect. But there is something about this advanced race of antennaed humanoid that you can’t put a finger on it. So, you present yourself as ideal hosts for your seemingly ideal guest, mostly to indulge your curiosity. And then it happens – BOOM, PEW, PEW, ZAP, AAAARGH! The antennaed attack drone has pinpointed the chink in the armour of your defences; the intergalactic flare is set off. The drone sends for his cavalry, and the invasion will ensue.
The Raumdeuter (German for Space Investigator), is one of the most unquantifiable player in the modern game (made famous among English-speaking hipster like myself, by the Guardian’s inimitable Barney Ronay in 2013). So much so, that there has been only one in recent memory – Germany’s Thomas Mueller. The 27-year-old is one of the hardest players to mark in world football, despite having no apparent calling card in terms of technique, or power. Looking relatively uninterested, and unassuming, loitering all over the pitch, almost in a leisurely stupor, and then out of nowhere, he teleports himself into the box, and gets himself at the end of another cross to head home, or deal another side-foot finish into the bottom corner from 10 yards.
3 years and 731 miles away, TV channels and broadsheets are rife with reports of another sighting.
In Bob Firmino Liverpool have a wormhole merchant with a warp drive. Capable of crunching space and time on the field, and getting to the business end. Jürgen Klopp knows infinitely well, while the Anfield faithful are slowly beginning to realise the sheer unquantifiable virtues of Bobby Firmino Barbosa.
Midfielder, striker? He’s neither of the either. In fact, if he had a calling card, it’d be left blank. Frictionless, the immediate aura around him exhibits the properties of invisible axle grease, slipping past unnoticed, unattended for yet another goal.
Brazilian bravado shrouded in German efficacy; Bob Firmino is the sort of player that hangs about on the fringes of the frame of your television, like a phantasm hanging in a corner of your room, at the very edge of your peripheral vision, a perpetual blur, until he stops being one. When that happens, it’s the producer in the control room barking into his earpiece to direct the feed to camera three placed near the goal line, where Bob is seen reeling away in celebration of another close-range finish. Almost taking off his shirt in celebration, but then stopping himself.
With the ball at his feet, his bobblehead-head on a pin looks around incessantly. At the edge of the box it seems almost counter-intuitive to close Bob down as he’d slip the ball square or lay it off for an onrushing team-mate, regardless. Then with quiet disdain for your existence, make a threatening run into the box, where you’re placed in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t predicament.
You have a split second to decide whether you allow to bait yourself and follow Bob, or let the player who now has the ball at his feet, cut in. There will be two distinct possibilities by this point: One, the player plays in Bob for the goal, or he, himself takes the shot on, seeing you standoff.
If Schrodinger conceptualised strikers, Bob would be it. He’s Klopp’s very own Raumdueter and Liverpool’s cloak and dagger. The sneaky lad from Maceió is the footballing equivalent of a switchblade knife, a ninja, a racoon at Yellowstone, a malicious web background script from Norway, a space invader; and in this Jürgen Klopp set-up, perhaps their most influential attacking player – their terminator with a top-knot.
The best part is it doesn’t matter if rival managers begin to wise up to realise what Firmino is – you can’t stop what you don’t see coming.
Say ‘hello‘ to the ghost in the red machine… and ‘goodbye‘.