His home city of Maceio has beautiful beaches, but for the Firmino family survival was always the name of the game and Roberto grew up aware that his father was forced to sell bottles of water on the streets to make a living.
It is why he agreed to move on his own far from home at 16 years old to pursue a career as a footballer. When his big chance to play in Europe arrived three years later, his first reaction was to proclaim: ‘My family will never have to work again.’
Instead, they followed him to Germany and, one assumes, will now relocate to Merseyside, along with the player’s girlfriend Larissa and their seven-month-old baby daughter Valentina.
Firmino’s career has always been about providing and anyone in doubt about the closeness of his family ties just needs to study his tattoo-adorned body, from the motto ‘Family, unending love’ in German to his daughter’s name inked across his chest.
Brendan Rodgers will surely be encouraged that Firmino’s back-story suggests a player with hunger as well as talent. ‘To run more’ is his target at the start of each season and even by the non-stop standards of the Bundesliga, Firmino’s work-rate is impressive.
It is not headless-chicken stuff either, 38 goals in 133 games for Hoffenheim is a better strike ratio than Steven Gerrard. ‘He smells of goals,’ says Brazil coach Dunga and his tidy finish from Willian’s cross against Venezuela in the Copa America this week was his fourth goal in nine international matches.
At 16 Roberto signed for Tombense, hundreds of miles from home, and they sent him on loan a further 1,000 miles south to Figueirense.
‘It was hard at the beginning,’ conceded Firmino later. ‘I was completely on my own but I always had a clear goal in mind.’ Firmino helped Figueirense win promotion and Bundesliga side Hoffenheim had taken note, paying £3.5m or the untested 19-year-old - a gamble that has paid off handsomely.
Signed as a midfielder, Firmino has been pushed forward as his career has progressed and can play as a winger on either flank or at No 10. At Anfield, he will continue to wear the No 11 shirt which he wears for his country, with the club’s iconic No 7 going to James Milner, who wore that number at Manchester City.
Firmino’s move will encourage City to make a final, £40m offer to Liverpool for unsettled Raheem Sterling.
For his part, Rodgers must hope the new man can form an understanding with Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings like that he shared at Hoffenheim with Gylfi Sigurdsson and young German Kevin Volland. ‘We only had to make eye contact and I knew where to make the pass,’ he said.
He has either scored or assisted in 45 goals in Hoffenheim’s last 66 matches - but of course there will be doubts. With no Europa or Champions League experience, he comes with a hefty price tag, one Manchester United wouldn’t pay.
Firmino will take time to learn English but insisted: ‘Don’t judge me on what I say. On the pitch I transform myself, I am another person and lose my shyness.’
Original source: £29m star who 'smells of goals'