Firmino thrusts Musona back into the spotlight
Roberto Firmono’s stunning strike in the seven-goal feast in a classic English Premiership showdown at Anfield on Saturday evening has once again brought the debate related to the club career of Warriors captain Knowledge Musona back into the spotlight.
The Brazilian international forward scored a beauty in Liverpool’s 4-3 win over runaway English Premiership leaders Manchester City as the five-time European champions paraded their attacking power to end the lengthy unbeaten run by Pep Guardiola’s troops.
This was Firmino’s 10th goal in 22 appearances, including three from the bench for Liverpool this season which is seeing a marked improvement in his game for the English giants where he has established himself as a key member of their awesome attack which features African Footballer of the Year Mohamed Salah and Senegalese star Sadio Mane.
He ran onto a pass from the outstanding Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose energy and pace cast a spell on a midfield he dominated with aplomb to even overshadow Manchester City’s creative hub, Kevin De Bruyne and used his strength to bully his way past defender John Stones.
Then, from an angle, he had the presence of both mind and accuracy to chip the ball over the advancing ‘keeper and steer it onto a romantic kiss of glory with the inside of the post before it rolled home amid organismic explosions by the Anfield faithful who are now getting used to seeing their team treat them to such attacking football.
“Oxlade-Chamberlain pass, Firmino away from Stones, scores with sublime skill, that was beautifully done, just a gorgeous day for Roberto Firmino and Liverpool have their lead back on the hour,” screamed the SkySports television commentator in a fitting soundtrack to the move.
Mane and Salah also scored superb goals on the day, but in this country, it’s Firmino’s rise that continues to provoke debate about what might have been for Musona had a combination of both fate and the benefit of wise counsel turned his career in a different direction.
The debate between Firmino’s sensation to become a star at one of Europe’s biggest football clubs and Musona’s stagnation, which has seen him stuck at a modest Belgian club, was triggered by reports carried in this newspaper last week.
A number of voices gave their sides of stories as to why the two, who arrived at German Bundesliga Club TSG Hoffenheim at around the same time six years ago, exploding with raw talent and great expectations, have now seen their careers turn out so differently.
Musona moved to KV Oostende from Hoffenheim for about 450 000 pounds, after a loan spell at another German club Augsburg and his former South African side Kaizer Chiefs and has scored five goals in 17 league matches this season, one in the Europa Cup and two in two Belgian Cup games.
Before Firmino arrived at Liverpool, Musona was given a golden chance to break into the English Premiership when veteran manager Harry Redknapp, who brought Benjani Mwaruwari to Portsmouth in a club record-breaking 4,1 million deal from France, tried to lure the Warriors skipper to England.
“On behalf of Queens Park Rangers Football Club I kindly request the temporary release of Knowledge Musona to join us in a trial assessment at our club for a duration of 10 day’s,” Redknapp, who was the QPR manager, wrote on July 4, 2013.
“The player is expected to arrive in England at the possible earliest date.”
The London club were then an English Premiership side back then.
However, Musona didn’t travel to England with the man who had brokered that deal, Kenny Mapeza, saying the Warriors skipper felt belittled by being asked to have a 10-day assessment at a time he felt he was good enough to be signed without undergoing a trial period.
A great opportunity was lost.
Redknapp’s interest in Zimbabwean players had started at the turn of the millennium when he brought Norman Mapeza to West Ham only for the move to be destroyed by British authorities who declined to issue him with a work permit.
Rio Ferdinand, who was then at West Ham before he later became a huge star at Manchester United, trained with Mapeza and gave a glowing endorsement to the Zimbabwean star.
But this did not deter Redknapp who then signed Mapeza at Portsmouth on a two-year deal in July 2001 from Austrian club SV Reid.
“Norman is a player we have been chasing,” Redknapp, who was the club’s director of football, said back then.
“I rate Norman very highly and I think he will do a great job here. I had him at West Ham for pre-season training at the start of last year, but he never played for us because we could not get a work permit.
“I don’t expect to have problems with that this time because he is the captain of Zimbabwe and they have gone up the world rankings, which will make things easier for us.
“The fact that I brought him to West Ham indicates how highly I rate him. He is also a leader as well and that is not a bad thing.”
However, Mapeza could not secure a work permit once again for him to play in the English Premiership.
At 27, Musona is a year older than Firmino who even had disciplinary issues at Hoffenheim where he was once dropped from the team for showing up late for training.
The Brazilian didn’t explode in his first season at the German club where he scored only four goals before following that up with seven goals in 36 appearances in his second season.
However, in June 2015, he completed a 29 million move to Liverpool at the same time Musona was moving to KV Oostende for about 450 000.
Firmino’s development has seen him become an all-round player who averages 0,35 goals per game and his goals at Liverpool have come from seven headers, 17 with his right foot, seven with his left and seven from the penalty spot.
He has had 212 shots, with 91 on target, his shooting accuracy is around 43 percent, four times he has hit the woodwork, 19 chances he has missed have been considered big ones, there have been 19 assists and 3 192 passes during his Liverpool career.
He averages 36,27 passes per game, he has sent in 120 crosses, created 27 big chances for his Liverpool teammates during his time at Anfield, made 158 tackles, has seen 61 shots being blocked, made 55 interceptions and 33 clearances.
Firmino is certainly flying right now, enjoying life at the very top of the game and with the career of another Zimbabwean star, Khama Billiat, currently the subject of intense speculation, the Brazilian’s rising stock and Musona’s retreat into a modest European league from one of its Big Five Leagues, will continue to provide a number of talking points for the domestic football constituency desperate for one of their own to make it among the big boys.