Roberto Firmino has been likened to Eric Cantona as he spearheads Liverpool’s bid for Premier League glory.
The Brazilian came off the bench to inspire his side’s 3-1 comeback win over Newcastle that moved them five points clear at the top.
And, for Toon manager Steve Bruce, it was reminiscent of Cantona, the flamboyant French forward who proved the catalyst for Manchester United when they ended a 26-year wait for a top-flight title in 1993.
Firmino, alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, is integral to Liverpool’s hopes of winning a championship for the first time since 1990.
And Bruce, who captained United during Cantona’s era, sees similarities as he said: “Ah yes, similar in that he’s one that drifts into that little area and he naturally does it, where it’s so difficult for defenders to go. And his attitude and work rate, it’s so important.
“Cantona is as good a player as I’ve ever seen. I haven’t seen Firmino week in week out like that, but just when you see him here and what he gives them, it’s a perfect balance. Cantona gave us that.
“Back in the day, we had [Ryan] Giggs and [Andrei] Kanchelskis who had frightening pace and stretched sides so much like Liverpool’s two, and Cantona dropped into that hole and people couldn’t get anywhere near them. That’s what you see with Firmino.
“Firmino is the one that drops in, but the pace of the other two is frightening, he drops in and the other two are running over your shoulder. Look they are a very, very good team, as good as you get. At this moment in time is there anyone better?
“The one down the road [Manchester City] I suppose is there at the minute, but they are certainly as good as you get.
“The way they play with the intensity, the full backs are only young and the delivery and presence they bring to the box, you can see why they are Champions of Europe.”
Liverpool begin the defence of that trophy in Napoli tomorrow with Andrew Robertson keen to put his Scotland troubles behind him by shining for the Reds.
The left back came under fire as his national team suffered Euro 2020 qualifying defeats to Russia and Belgium and he added: “Darren Fletcher dealt with it for 10, 12 years when he was at the top at Manchester United and now I’m facing it.
“That’s something I have to deal with up in Scotland and I need to deal better with. In terms of not letting it affect me and try and concentrate on my game and things like that.
“I lock myself away, I don’t like to talk to anyone. That’s up to me to deal with and I dealt with it in the way that I felt was right and I’ll continue to do that.”
“It’s a team game, it’s not just one person, and unfortunately we didn’t perform as a team last week.”
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