Roberto Firmino’s career journey into ever more attacking positions on the pitch was influenced by the distinctive skills of a World Cup-winning compatriot and the management of Jürgen Klopp.
“I was wowed by his way of playing football,” the Liverpool forward told Eight by Eight magazine of his appreciation for Ronaldinho.
“But that was not enough. I needed to improve my own game, to try to be the best footballer in the world.”
Though occasionally used in deeper-lying roles this season, the No.9’s predominant position since the arrival of Klopp as Reds manager has been centre-forward.
Firmino admits adaptation to the role was required, but a tally of 61 goals in 181 games for the club backs up the boss’ conviction in his ability to make the switch successful.
“I was a midfielder, though for a while I even played as a central defender,” the Brazil international explained of his evolution, from hometown Maceio to the Bundesliga to Merseyside.
“But whenever I got the ball, I would start to dribble and to nutmeg people and join the attack. So every year I evolved a little bit further forward up the pitch.
“Once I got to the U17s, I became a No.10, which was the position I held up until recently – when I established myself as a centre-forward.
“It was Klopp’s idea to fix me as a No.9. But I accepted this role and adapted to it. Now I want to continue in this position until the end of my career.”
Klopp has previously referred to Firmino as the ‘engine’ of a Liverpool team that reached the Champions League final last term and is battling for Premier League glory this season.
“We get along so well. He’s an excellent coach, an amazing person, so passionate on the pitch,” said the 27-year-old of such praise from his manager.
“When he says that, to me, it’s a sign that I’m giving back what he wants. It motivates me to keep going, to do the things he asks.”