• Liverpool forward is the sixth top scorer in Premier League history • Are Liverpool starlets Firmino and Mane also underrated?
It’s easy to forget how little the current Liverpool team actually cost. It was only four years ago that the club did not have even a single Premier League-winning season. The investment in players and staff still has a while to go but now are not far away from being a perennial force in Europe and the Premier League.
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That process, though, is unlikely to be a rapid one. There is, by and large, a case for seeing Firmino and Mane alongside Mo Salah and Divock Origi as the most underrated players in the English top flight. The question, though, is whether the latter duo are necessarily better than Firmino and Mane.
The pair, Salah’s close friend in the field and Lyon’s forward and a little bit of a brash, outspoken character, set the pace in the country as young players and have continued to show that at Anfield. Firmino and Mane, according to the Liverpool supporter Shamik Dasgupta, should be recognised as the right combination, not by chanting them names but by consigning Alvaro Morata to a deeper reserve of lesser strikers.
Firmino, who has 16 goals and eight assists for Liverpool, is certainly entitled to his place at the top of the talent pyramid: his 44 goals from 77 appearances over two and a half seasons, including that scintillating hat-trick against Man City, is very much the best strike rate in the top flight. Not to mention that he is the side’s record signing – £48m, to be precise. This becomes even more important as the top four beckons.
Despite being trusted with bigger responsibilities, Mane has arguably done better. His only shot on target in the past two games against Arsenal and Chelsea – a double in the latter – was a goal for which he deserved to be awarded the accolade as best player. He is one of the few big-money signings Liverpool have made in the recent years, having joined for £30m from Southampton in January 2017. The 27-year-old is expected to take over the No10 role which was previously occupied by Christian Benteke and Philippe Coutinho. This season he has nine goals in all competitions, giving him an impressive ratio of one every three games.
While a Maradona-style criticism is unwelcome, it must be admitted that the French-born player lacks the qualities of the Uruguayan’s natural creative ability: no goals in over 100 minutes of action this season.
Firmino has often been accused of treading water with the ball at his feet, just as Arsenal made. Some, like our social media club, have labelled him the weak link and it is true that the Brazilian has not displayed enough creativity and assured play in games this season.
What’s more, he has been blamed for the disaster caused by Coutinho in his first-team debut against Watford in September. Barring that moment, Firmino has been the standout performer under Klopp this season and is perhaps looking forward to the return of Liverpool’s reliable right-hand man, Ragnar Klavan, in Sunday’s Premier League encounter with Bournemouth.
It’s a small consolation, then, to see Firmino and Mane at the top of the list and it seems that Firmino’s success is a consequence of his opposite number’s, a great outsider.