A former Liverpool icon is performing well in his brand new surroundings, after departing Anfield on a free transfer…
Liverpool moved on a number of players in the summer transfer window out of Anfield, the old guard being gradually phased out by Jurgen Klopp for new talents such as Dominik Szoboszlai and Ryan Gravenberch coming into the building.
James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and more were all let go of by Klopp in his pursuit of new and fresh players, both Fabinho and Henderson opting for moves to Saudi Arabia. The latter has linked up with former teammate Steven Gerrard at Al-Ettifaq who now manages out in the Middle East.
A third departee from Liverpool would also join the mega-bucks of the Saudi Pro League, Roberto Firmino ending his eight-year connection with the Reds to join Al-Ahli and link up with former Premier League players Ryad Mahrez and Allan Saint-Maximin subsequently.
Signed by Brendan Rodgers during the summer 2015-16 transfer window for £21.3m – Klopp not joining the Reds until that October – Firmino would become a stalwart for Liverpool and a key player in the success the German manager would bring back to Anfield.
In his first season with the club after leaving Hoffenheim behind, scoring 49 goals in total for the Bundesliga side before Liverpool poached the Brazilian, he would net ten goals and become Liverpool’s top scorer in the league.
He would notch up double figures for the next three seasons on the spin for the Reds, his best season in a Liverpool strip coming during the 2017/18 campaign – the Brazilian centre-forward helping himself to 15 goals, forming the foundations of an unstoppable front three.
Firmino – alongside Mo Salah and Sadio Mane – would wreak havoc on top-flight defences for a number of seasons – striking fear into Premier League defences, combining for an unbelievable 338 goals together.
Although, when Liverpool lifted the coveted Premier League at the end of the 2019/20 season, Firmino only netted nine times.
An emotional last match at Anfield for the Brazilian showed how much the Liverpool masses had idolised the forward, scoring at the death versus Aston Villa to snatch a 1-1 draw with the attacker visibly emotional in his celebrations.
Making 362 appearances for Liverpool – all mainly under the tenure of Klopp – the label of Firmino being a Liverpool legend was branded about by pundits and fans alike as he departed on a free transfer.
Even Liverpool goalscoring great Ian Rush would herald Firmino as the ‘most skilful number nine that Liverpool have ever had’ in the wake of his move to Saudi Arabia, high praise indeed from the Welshman who also wore that same number.
Firmino has slotted straight into the Al-Ahli set-up, named as captain for his new Saudi side before a ball had been kicked.
He has scored three goals from ten games so far for his new Middle East employers, all three of those goals coming against Al-Hazem on his debut – his second of the contest assisted by Ryad Mahrez.
He has also been unselfish for Al-Ahli so far, assisting a further two goals with one of those assists helping his Saudi side win 1-0 against Al-Okhdood recently – Franck Kessie benefitting as a result with a last-minute winner.
Early days with Al-Ahli suggest that Firmino will not view this move as a holiday, nearing towards his retirement. Rather, it’s an opportunity to become a star man again after leaving Liverpool behind.
So far, he has more goals and assists than even Szoboszlai does in a Reds jersey – the ever-impressive Hungarian midfielder scoring just the two times this term, while failing to register an assist.
But, Firmino’s time with Klopp’s team is up and Liverpool fans will now keep a close eye to see how the Brazilian performs in Saudi Arabia in the hope their former icon excels in his new surroundings.