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Klopp put my career on Firm footing; nothing false about firmino form.

Byline: IAN DOYLE Sports reporter ian.doyle@trinitymirror.com @IANDOYLESPORT

HE'S the Liverpool player who gained a reputation for being something he apparently wasn't.

But there has been nothing false about the manner in which Roberto Firmino has embraced becoming the Reds' number nine this season.

Having been signed primarily as a wide midfielder, few would quibble the Brazilian is now first-choice striker at Anfield.

And for Firmino, that transformation has been down to one man: Jurgen Klopp.

With seven goals and four assists already, this has been the 26-year-old's most profitable campaign since being signed by then Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers from Hoffenheim in the summer of 2015.

However, only after Klopp's subsequent appointment a few months later did Firmino finally begin to find his feet at his new club.

Now the player is shining in the Premier League and Champions League, and helped Brazil ease their way to next summer's World Cup finals in Russia.

Life at Anfield, Firmino declares, is going well.

"It is difficult to define a specific reason for a good moment for a player," he says.

"I'm entering my third season for Liverpool and with each passing year I feel more comfortable, more at home, and this is very positive for me.

"Having the opportunity to work with Klopp has been very good for my development. He is a coach who demands a lot, has a lot of experience and understands a lot about football." Of course, Firmino featured many times as the central component of a front three during Klopp's first two seasons at Anfield. But it's only since assuming the number nine shirt during the summer that it has become his primary role.

"I think the coach's job is to find the best position for the players he has in the squad," explains Firmino.

"We have more players on the wing, like Mane and Salah, besides Philippe Coutinho, who plays a role of coming from deep. Klopp has been using this formation a lot and it has worked. I hope that the goals keep coming and Liverpool keep winning games."

Firmino's admiration for the Reds boss is clear.

"Klopp is a fantastic guy," says Firmino, speaking to Brazilian media outlet OUL Esporte.

"He has that different way of celebrating the goals, it is quite hectic, but he is an incredible person.

"Liverpool got it right when he brought him here and certainly the way the team has progressed in recent seasons goes straight through his hands.

"I hope that at the end of the season we can celebrate a trophy together to celebrate this excellent work developed by him."

Firmino is currently with the Brazil squad ahead of their friendlies against Japan in Lille on Friday and England at Wembley next Tuesday. The Liverpool man became a regular in their World Cup qualification campaign, and makes no secret of his desire to feature in Russia next summer despite strong competition for the number nine slot from Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus.

"It's a dream I've had since I was a kid, I worked my entire career to play for the national team, and playing in a World Cup is something I always thought I wanted to be a part of," adds Firmino.

"But we still have a long way to go to Russia. I have to stay focused on doing my job well here at Liverpool, and God willing I can be on the final list.

"I've struggled a lot to get where I am and I know I still have to work hard to stay on Tite's radar.

"The World Cup is getting closer, but until then I need to maintain a high level of football here at Liverpool and help the club to achieve the goals of the season."

Those goals, says Firmino, include winning a trophy having been on the losing side in both the Europa League and League Cup finals last year.

"I have good expectations for my season here in Liverpool," he says.

"The club has set up a strong squad, we have maintained the base of last year and we are making a good start to the Premier League and Champions League.

"It's still early to talk about trophies but we certainly have goals in the season and we're working hard to reach them."

CAPTION(S):

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp embraces Roberto Firmino as he is substituted during last Saturday's 4-1 win over West Ham at the London Stadium JOHN WALTON

The Kop singing You'll Never Walk Alone before kick-offANDREW TEEBAY
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 9, 2017
Words:754
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