Former Hoffenheim sporting director Ernst Tanner says he never had any doubts over Roberto Firmino’s ability, but admits the current Liverpool star arrived in Europe with stats “worse than my grandma”.
The Bundesliga outfit took a calculated gamble on the Brazilian when snapping him up from Figueirense in 2011.
Firmino was a 19-year-old rough diamond at that time, with plenty of polishing required once he landed in Germany.
Tanner told Bleacher Report of his efforts to get the South American on board: “You should have seen the data that we got on him when he was coming for the first time [to Hoffenheim].
“In Germany, we usually do these endurance tests, blood ones, which are pretty accurate, you know, and he had the worst numbers I have ever seen in professional football.
“I would say to emphasise that he was even worse than my grandma. You can't imagine.
“They were so low that you couldn't even believe that he was ever able to play professional football.”
While early questions were asked of Firmino’s fitness, Tanner claims there was never any doubt that he would go on to thrive in European football.
He added: “I was pretty sure that he would be a top Bundesliga player. We do these evaluations in our scouting reports, you know, and I think that out of 10, nine and 10 are international level. And I gave him, I don't know if it was an eight or nine, but I'm sure it was pretty high.
“Everyone [at Hoffenheim] was a bit curious about that at the time, but I rated him pretty high because I was so convinced about his abilities and even more so by his attitude.
“When I saw how the coach criticised him [in a training with Figueirense], he was like a schoolboy standing there and listening to his teacher. I still have that picture in my brain.
“I thought to myself after an hour that if that coach had done that to a German player, he would head straight to the locker room totally pissed off, but Firmino took the criticism well. He tried to improve, to do better. That was really impressive.”
Firmino spent four years with Hoffenheim before making a big-money move to Liverpool.
He has gone on to become a Champions League winner and Premier League title hopeful with the Reds, recording 76 goals in 230 appearances for the club.