Reds take £29m bet on Firmino

Roberto Firmino is elated after scoring in Brazil's 2-1 Copa America group-stage win over Venezuela.
Roberto Firmino is elated after scoring in Brazil's 2-1 Copa America group-stage win over Venezuela.PHOTO: REUTERS

Ayre goes to Chile to secure deal with Brazilian, who's playing in Copa

LONDON - Roberto Firmino is set to become the second-most expensive player in Liverpool's history, after talks over a £29 million (S$61.2 million) transfer from Hoffenheim were concluded successfully on Tuesday.

Ian Ayre, Liverpool's chief executive who travelled to South America earlier this week to continue negotiations, reached an agreement with the forward's representatives, the Rogon agency, and Firmino will now become a Liverpool player subject to the successful completion of a routine medical examination.

Ayre's arrival in Chile, where Firmino is participating in the Copa America with Brazil, was the most significant indication yet that Liverpool felt they had moved into pole position to recruit Firmino, their main target for the summer transfer window, and that confidence was not misplaced.

  • Reds' record buys

  • £35 million

    • Andy Carroll (Newcastle United, Jan 2011)

    £25 million

    • Adam Lallana (Southampton, July 2014)

    £22.8 million

    • Luis Suarez (Ajax, Jan 2011)

    £20 million

    • Lazar Markovic (Benfica, July 2014), Dejan Lovren (Southampton, July 2014), Stewart Downing (Aston Villa, July 2011), Robbie Keane (Tottenham, July 2008), Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid, July 2007)

Firmino has agreed a five-year contract which will make him one of the Reds' highest-paid players after the English Premier League football club met the €40 million (S$60 million) asking price that was required to prise the 23-year-old from Hoffenheim, the German Bundesliga club.

With Raheem Sterling determined to depart Liverpool this summer - Manchester City remains the winger's most likely destination - there is a feeling among the Anfield hierarchy that they need to make a statement of the club's intent in the transfer market and the purchase of Firmino means that has been achieved.

Firmino, who has scored 49 times in 153 appearances for Hoffenheim and four times in nine international games, including Sunday's Copa America winner against Venezuela, provides a significant boost to Brendan Rodgers, who bemoaned Liverpool's lack of ruthlessness in front of goal last season as the team failed to fill the void created by Luis Suarez's £75 million transfer to Barcelona.

Rodgers' main priority ahead of the start of next season has been to recalibrate his side's attack and, having already signed Danny Ings from Burnley, Firmino's arrival will provide both the kind of star quality and, potentially, the cutting edge that he feels has been lacking.

It would not end Rodgers' search for a centre-forward, however, with Christian Benteke still his chief target, although the £32.5 million release clause contained in the Aston Villa striker's contract remains unattractive.

The departure of Sterling appears increasingly inevitable as City prepare a third offer for the England winger, having had two previous bids - the most recent being worth up to £40 million - rejected by Liverpool, who continue to maintain that they will do business only if their £50 million asking price is met.

Initially, Liverpool had insisted that Sterling would not be sold this summer regardless of the strength of City's interest but their patience with the 20-year-old has all but eroded as a result of his refusal to commit to a new contract and the ongoing attempts by his agent, Aidy Ward, to secure his client a transfer.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2015, with the headline 'Reds take £29m bet on Firmino'. Print Edition | Subscribe