Roberto Firmino, the former Liverpool striker, has recently unveiled intriguing insights into his time at the club in his latest book, ‘Sí Señor: My Liverpool Years.‘ Among the many fascinating revelations, one of the most captivating is Firmino’s description of his role as a ‘firefighter’ in managing tensions between his former teammates, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. This article takes a deeper dive into the details of this revelation and provides an in-depth exploration of the dynamics of their relationship during their time together at Anfield.
Tensions Flare in the Attack
During their tenure at Liverpool, the attacking trio of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mane formed a formidable partnership that struck fear into opposition defenses. Their collective success included winning the UEFA Champions League in the 2018/19 season and ending Liverpool’s 30-year English title drought just 12 months later. Together, they netted an impressive 352 goals in various competitions between 2017 and 2022.
However, despite their undeniable on-field success, it was no secret that the competition between Salah and Mane to be the team’s top scorer occasionally led to friction. The breaking point came during a game against Burnley in 2019 when Salah opted to take a shot instead of passing to an open Mane, causing frustration among the players.
Tensions flared when Mohamed Salah failed to pass the ball to Sadio Mane, who was unmarked, instead attempting to score Liverpool’s fourth goal on his own. Mane’s frustration was palpable as he was subsequently substituted by head coach Jurgen Klopp, displaying his displeasure on the touchline.
Although both players later claimed that the incident was resolved, Roberto Firmino, reflecting on the matter, revealed that these tensions had deep roots.
Mane’s Intensity and Firmino’s Mediating Role
Describing Mane, Firmino noted, “Mané displayed intense emotions, both in moments of success and frustration. He was undoubtedly the most explosive among the three of us. I frequently engaged with him, offering advice and attempting to keep him calm. I encouraged him to find inner peace, prioritize team play, and maintain composure.” Mane’s passionate nature was evident, and Firmino’s role as a calming influence became crucial in balancing the team’s dynamics.
Salah’s Playing Style and Klopp’s Intervention
When speaking about Salah, Firmino pointed out, “I can’t say whether he was aware of it or not, but Salah’s reluctance to pass the ball used to frustrate everyone. Klopp addressed this concern in front of the entire team, making it a clear message aimed at Salah.” Salah’s individualistic playing style occasionally led to tension, prompting Klopp to address the issue openly.
Roberto Firmino’s Knowing Glance: Acknowledging the Underlying Tensions
Firmino’s acute awareness of the underlying tension between Mane and Salah was brought into focus when Liverpool’s Instagram account posted a video of the players returning to the dressing room after the Burnley game. In this video, Firmino was strategically positioned between Mane and Salah, who had just been at odds on the field. His knowing glance and subtle smile toward the camera indicated his understanding of the ongoing tensions, even in the midst of their success.
Firmino’s Role as a Peacemaker
In his book, Firmino candidly acknowledges that tensions between Salah and Mane were not limited to that single incident. He reveals, “For many, that disagreement between Sadio and Mo was the first, but I knew it had been brewing since the previous season, 2018-19. My instinct and my duty was to defuse the situation between them. Pour water on the fire – never petrol.”
Firmino’s unique perspective, as someone who was centrally positioned on the field during matches, allowed him to closely observe the interactions between the two forwards. He noticed their expressions, body language, and moments of dissatisfaction with each other. Firmino regarded himself as the link between them in their attacking play and the firefighter during tense moments.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of Firmino’s approach was his neutrality. He never took sides, and this impartiality endeared him to both Salah and Mane, as well as the coaching staff. Firmino’s primary focus was always the team’s victory, demonstrated by his willingness to pass the ball to both players as needed, ensuring that their personal differences didn’t hinder the collective success of the team.
The Legacy of Liverpool’s Attacking Trio
Despite the evident issues between the attacking trio, their collective contribution played an indispensable role in Liverpool’s remarkable success over the past decade. Firmino, who joined Liverpool in 2015, was soon joined by Mane in 2016, and Salah followed a year later. This triumvirate ignited a period of sustained achievement for the club.
Together, they remarkably contributed an astounding 427 goals for Liverpool, leaving an indelible mark on both domestic and European competitions in recent years. Their legacy, though marked by moments of tension, remains an integral part of Liverpool’s storied history.
Life Beyond Liverpool
Firmino’s revelation is particularly poignant given his recent departure from Liverpool. After an illustrious eight-year association with the club, he decided to take his talents to the Saudi Pro League side, Al Alhi. Meanwhile, Salah continues to be a key player for Liverpool, and Mane embarked on a new chapter in his career by joining Bayern Munich in 2022. Speculation about the relationship between the two has persisted even after their departures.
Roberto Firmino’s account of his role as a peacemaker between Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane offers a unique and intimate perspective on the inner workings of one of football’s most potent attacking trios. While tensions occasionally flared on the field, Firmino’s ability to maintain harmony and prioritize the team’s success made him an invaluable asset during his Liverpool years. His insights shed light on the human element of a successful football team, where personal differences are set aside for the greater good of the club, and the pursuit of victory always takes precedence.