Roberto Firmino is an unbelievable footballer.
The Brazilian is one of the most intelligent players to have represented Liverpool in years, possessing a footballing brain many can only dream of. His thought process is always a split-second quicker than most of the mere mortals around him.
He sees passes before they can be made, finds pockets of space before defenders have had time to notice and presses as effectively as any frontman in Europe.
It wasn’t a lightning-fast start at Liverpool for the 26-year-old, who like many foreign players took a while to adjust to the relentless nature of the Premier League, but he has improved as each week has passed.
Jurgen Klopp has helped take Firmino’s game to another level – they are a match made in heaven, much like Jose Mourinho and any giant with a penchant for being a snide – and he is now the Reds’ most important player by some distance.
That was the case before Philippe Coutinho left for Barcelona, despite those who only watch Liverpool on Match of the Day often claiming otherwise, and even Mo Salah and Sadio Mane cannot claim to being as indispensable.
Everything goes through Firmino, and if he has a good game, it is extremely rare that Liverpool don’t do the same. On the flip side, a bad day at the office for him does not bode well for the rest of the team.
For all these wonderful attributes at Firmino’s disposal, there was one thing constantly, and perhaps fairly, being aimed at him: he didn’t score enough.
Although his unselfish style doesn’t cater towards being a fox in the box, it was also hard to deny that his finishing could do with being honed, with key chances occasionally being missed at match-defining moments.
His first two seasons in England garnered a relatively average 23 goals in 90 appearances, and when Klopp decided he didn’t want an out-and-out striker brought in last summer, concern was in the air.
In fact, there was almost hysteria in the air, with endless comments something akin to, “Firmino will never be a 20-goal man, what is Klopp playing at?”, and “our rivals have proper goalscorers, why don’t we?”.
Those fears have been alleviated in thrilling fashion this season, however, with Liverpool’s slick leading man finding the net at a regular occurrence.
His beautifully-taken effort in Tuesday’s 3-0 win at Huddersfield was his 19th goal of the campaign, in all competitions – we have only just reached February.
That tally has been reached in 34 matches, meaning an average of 0.55 goals per game in 2017/18, and 12 have come in his last 14 starts. He is becoming more ruthless all the time.
And to that 10 assists, and you have one of the country’s most influential attacking players, with 29 goal involvements to his name already.
Just look at Liverpool’s rival strikers – a selection of individuals who so many were claiming Firmino was inferior to at the start of the season – and you see exactly why Klopp had so much faith in his most cherished player.
Harry Kane has blossomed into one of the world’s best strikers, and while a fantastic 30 goals have come his way this season, just one assist in the league is proof that he lacks Firmino’s all-round game.
The same applies to Sergio Aguero – 25 goals, five assists – while Gabriel Jesus has suffered an injury-hit campaign which is yet to ignite.
Romelu Lukaku is the anti-Firmino in a lot of ways, possessing brute strength and a poachers’ instinct, but lacking intelligence, touch and unselfishness.
The Belgian has actually scored one goal fewer than the Liverpool favourite, despite goals being far and away his main weapon.
Alexandre Lacazette has far from set the world alight at Arsenal, and Alvaro Morata has hit a brick wall after a very ominous start at Chelsea.
We shouldn’t want to swap Firmino for any of these players, despite the undoubted positive attributes at their disposal. Not a chance.
The former Hoffenheim man is never going to be Luis Suarez, considering the Uruguayan is one of the best players of the last 20 years, but he is doing a fine job of getting somewhere close at the moment. He has everything in his locker.
Firmino is the individual standing tall in moments of adversity – he was one of the few who came away with any credit in the defeats to Swansea and West Brom – and should Klopp ever feel the need to change things up, he can be a future Reds captain.
He is more vocal than many give him credit for, with a nasty, winning edge to his game that can go unnoticed. He lifts those around him, and also has an impeccable injury record, meaning he ticks many of the boxes that make a good skipper.
Salah and Mane have been wonderful signings, and are match-winners of almost unrivalled proportions at Anfield, but Firmino is the glue that holds this Reds side together.
An injury to him between now and May has the potential to derail Liverpool’s entire season, and the thought of him leaving in the near future doesn’t even bear thinking about.
Adding goals was always Firmino’s greatest challenge – he is now doing that at will, becoming an unstoppable player in the process.