"TSG will always be in my heart"

He entranced supporters with his finesse. He was a focal point in attack, playing 151 games for Hoffenheim and scoring 47 goals. At TSG, Roberto Firmino has developed into a world-class player. Now a new challenge awaits him at Liverpool in the English Premier League. The Brazilian takes a look back over his time at Kraichgau with

Hoffenheim was your first destination after leaving home in Brazil. What have you learnt, and what will you be taking with you?

Roberto Firmino: I was just 19 when I arrived at Hoffenheim. Everything was new to me: a foreign country, a different language – at the start it wasn’t so easy, but I settled in quickly. The club and my teammates helped me enormously with that. With time, I understood more and more and eventually I was able to communicate and express myself really well. I’ve had four great years here – in terms of my football, I’ve learnt a lot of new things and I’ve had some fantastic life experiences too. My time and the people here in Kraichgau will always have a place in my heart.

How important has TSG been for your sporting development?

Firmino: I’ve developed immensely as a footballer and as a person. Moving from Brazil to Europe was a big adventure for me – I obviously had my doubts, but in hindsight it couldn’t have gone any better. Here at TSG I’ve learnt a new way of playing football, but I’ve also been able to put my own talents on display. Thanks to all the hard work I’ve put in with this team, I’ve managed to break into the Brazil national team, which is an outstanding achievement not just in my sporting career but also in my life. To play for my country was a dream come true. It means so much to me and I know who I have to thank for it – so many people here have believed in me, even in those times when it wasn’t looking so good. That says a lot about this club. Players who come here get a fantastic education, both on and off the field.

You excited the fans. What did you think of their support?

Firmino: Hoffenheim’s fan base is always growing. However, their support for the team is already at least as passionate and emotional as other fan bases in the Bundesliga. As a player, you really feel that great support. As a young player too, it’s amazing to be supported so well by fans and to experience how much they love the club. There are so many examples of this from my time here. Ones I always remember are the relegation play-off against Kaiserslautern or a few games against Dortmund, where the supporters really played their part in some of our best performances.

What have been your best moments from the past few years with TSG?

Firmino: My first competitive appearance, my first goal – games like against Hamburg where I scored two and set up three in a 5-1 win. The exciting, nerve-wrecking game in Dortmund and the subsequent relegation play-off, when we were able to stay up. But also my best memories are the many hours I’ve spent with my teammates. There have been so many great moments here. Of course, my developing personal affection for TSG and for the region will always stay with me. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to experience all this and that I’ve made so many friends.

Will you keep up this link to the region?

Firmino: Yes, of course. I’ve played for Hoffenheim for three and a half years. I’ve got to know a lot of people and also made some really close friends. I’ve always felt at home here, the people have always been good to me. I’ve got a lot to thank this team for. Therefore I definitely won’t simply be leaving and forgetting my time here. Furthermore, my daughter was born here and I’ll always have a really special relationship with this place. It’s been here in Hoffenheim and the surrounding areas that I’ve developed into the person that I am. I’ve now got the opportunity to start a new exciting chapter. And I know that I can always come back here. 

What are your goals at your new club?

Firmino: First and foremost I’m looking forward to the new challenge and I’m excited to see what the Premier League has to offer. Of course everything will once again be new to me at the start – I’m going to have to get used to a new playing style, but I’ll also get the opportunity to improve my game even further there. Obviously I’d like to establish myself as a starter in my new team and go on to celebrate a lot of success at Liverpool.

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