Roberto Firmino explains Luis Diaz talks as Liverpool demands made

Roberto Firmino has never known competition like this at Liverpool.

The arrival of Jurgen Klopp in October of 2015 coincided with the Brazilian carving out a new niche for himself just months into his own Anfield career.

After nudging ahead of the likes of Christian Benteke, Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Danny Ings in the pecking order of strikers under Klopp, Firmino’s conversion from attacking midfielder to centre-forward has been well documented in the years since.

From a ‘false 9’ to a very literal one; his story cements a place as a modern-day Anfield great.

In 2022, however, the former Hoffenheim man sees a place that was once nailed on as his own firmly up for grabs.

The arrival and subsequent successful adaptation of Diogo Jota increased competition and reduced the certainty of Firmino’s name on Liverpool team sheets.

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Thirteen goals in his maiden season at Anfield hinted at a big future with the club for Jota, but this year has seen the Portugal international move forward at an even more impressive rate of knots.

As a result, Firmino was limited to just six starts between the start of the season and the end of December with Jota leading the Liverpool line in a new kind of way.

The addition of Luis Diaz has only complicated the matter further for the 30-year-old Firmino, who has seen the Colombian settle seamlessly on Merseyside after his big-money move from Porto at the end of last month.

Despite seeing the fight to regain a permanent spot in the side get tougher with the signing of Diaz, Firmino has been keen to help his new team-mate adjust in his new surroundings.

“We speak ‘Portunhol’,” Firmino says of his talks with Diaz. “I speak a bit of Spanish, it’s not perfect, he speaks a bit of Portuguese so we get by.

“He’s made a really good first impression.”

Alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, Diaz has started the last two games at Anfield in the front three as Klopp’s side have blasted in nine goals to fire themselves back into the Premier League title race.

Firmino has been forced to watch on injured as the Reds have recorded 3-1 and 6-0 victories over Norwich and Leeds respectively in the last few days, but the club still remain hopeful the No.9 can prove himself fit in time for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final with Chelsea.

At the moment, however, it is Diaz who is looking most likely to accompany Mane and Salah in that Wembley attack.

Firmino says: “We knew of [Diaz’s] quality and what a great person he is.

“He is a really nice guy and he’ll definitely help in a lot of games this season.

“He showed in the first game with his assist (against Cardiff in the FA Cup) and getting in the box effectively – and we won the match.

“We’ve got great expectations that he will really help the team and it’s up to us to help him adapt to the team.”

But what now of his own fortunes?

Not quite the masterful manipulator of years gone by, Firmino is no longer an automatic selection in a squad that is surely Liverpool’s strongest of the Premier League era.

A telling contribution from the bench in the 2-0 win over Inter earlier this month, however, was a firm riposte to those who believe he is not his best, at least.

“We have so many great players who have shown they belong in the starting 11,” he says in an interview with Liverpool’s official match-day programme.

“It’s healthy competition and the manager decides on the starting 11. I respect his decision.

“I always want to be contributing to the team by playing first of all and I will fight for my place by training hard and doing my best.

“I need to continue doing what I have been doing the last few games – helping with marking in particular, tactically and with goals as well.”

With 17-goal Jota now arguably ahead of Firmino and Diaz adding ample food for thought while Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi stake their own claims, Firmino would be forgiven for concerning himself with his own worries at present.

The flamboyant Brazilian, though, provides the sort of answer that reveals just why Klopp has always been his biggest admirer.

“I demand a lot of myself,” he says. “I always want to be contributing with goals and assists but three points is the most important thing.

“I think about the team first of all and then the individual things.

“The group comes first.”

It is a group that could yet have so much to celebrate this season.


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