Breathe. Time to catch your breath. The end of the Bundesliga season allows Hoffenheim fans to finally relax after what has been a pulsating campaign.
They have been the entertainers. They burst forward at lightning speed and have an armoury of clinical finishers to blow away any defence. As for their defence, well, let’s just hope they outscore the opposition, shall we?
The Markus Gisdol-led turnaround of Hoffenheim has been remarkable. It all started during April of last season, where Hoffenheim only maintained their Bundesliga status by defeating Kaiserslautern in the relegation play-off. Key to the rejuvenated form of Gisdol’s squad has been the rise this season of Roberto Firmino.
The Brazilian has scored a remarkable 16 times and assisted a further 12 goals in the Bundesliga to help Hoffenheim finish in 9th place, their second best Bundesliga finish after Ralf Rangnick’s side of 2008/09 that finished 7th in their debut season in the German top flight.
Firminio’s hand in 28 of Hoffenheim’s 72 goals meant he was involved in 38.8% of their goals, a truly remarkable contribution. He even scored six goals in Hoffenheim’s DFB Pokal campaign, scoring in all four of their matches. At just 22-years-old, Firmino made 33 appearances in the Bundesliga and was subbed off just three times.
It all began in the second match of the season when Firmino single-handedly dismantled Hamburg by scoring twice and notching three assists in a 5-1 away victory at the Imtech Arena.
He quickly became vital to Hoffenheim, whether it was through his awareness to slice open the opposition defence with a pinpoint through ball or his clinical finishing that left goalkeepers bewildered. Indeed his goals return was sublime, but also significant is the fact that he scored first on five occasions in all competitions, winning four and losing just once (to Borussia Dortmund). More tellingly, he scored in 18 matches in all competitions throughout the season, winning ten and losing only four.
Statically impressive, isn’t it? The fulcrum of this enthusiastic, young side Firmino governed their attacking prowess as a stalwart. He was the influential figure of a vigorous team that was involved in a resounding 142 Bundesliga goals at an average of 4.2 goals per match. They were the third highest scorers in the Bundesliga behind only Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
It takes your breath away just thinking about it.
Agile in possession and tricky in gliding past would-be defenders, Firmino wreaks havoc in the opposition half. It’s not just with the ball either, he is tactically clever in finding space out wide or in a deeper position that makes him elusive for defenders, a real handful.
Combine that with his sensational goals that range from chips to volleys, the nonchalant to the ferocious, then it is easy to see why he is so revered by the Hoffenheim fans.
Despite his plethora of talent for one so young, Firmino has also benefited from a mesmerising relationship with precocious talent Kevin Volland. The two intricately pass and move between markers before laying in one or the other to finish with aplomb.
Both lauded players are in high demand, though Firmino did extend his contract with the Sinsheim club until 2017 back in March of this year. Firmino sounds settled at the club: “I feel very much at home here. I like the path that the club is on. We play exciting football, the team spirit is great and I will continue working hard to help the team as much as I can in the future.” Firmino told the club website.
The Hoffenheim chairman Peter Rettig was also pleased with the contract extension when he spoke to the club website: “We’re very happy that the club has been able to keep Roberto Firmino, a hugely important part of this young team, here in Hoffenheim.”
Even though Firmino is contracted until 2017, there is a strong sense he will be on the move this summer with possible targets being Borussia Dortmund and English Premier League side Chelsea.
Coach Gisdol will hope to keep him as he looks to an exciting future with this youthful Hoffenheim side as sporting director Alexander Rosen said upon Firmino’s contract extension: “He’s a player with incredible ability, who has developed immensely in the last year under Markus Gisdol.”
One thing for certain is that Hoffenheim will make a sizeable profit on the €4 million they spent in buying Firmino from Brazilian side Figueirense back in January 2011.
His fourth season at Hoffenheim, in which he marked his 100th appearance for the club, has been his best as he has announced himself to the rest of Europe, and despite not being picked for the Brazil World Cup squad he will surely taste Seleção action in the future.
This summer instead we will see where his club future will be. Let’s hope he remains in the Bundesliga.
Follow Tom Rowland on Twitter @TWRowland
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