Sadio Mane looks set to break up one of the most iconic front threes in Premier League history.
While it’s already been a long time since Jurgen Klopp selected Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino in his starting XI every single game, the trio has nevertheless stayed loyal to the club.
And on the odd occasion where Klopp has gotten the band back together over newcomers Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota has always brought over a wave of nostalgia for the 2017/18 and 2018/19 campaigns in particular.
Liverpool’s fabled front three
However, with Fabrizio Romano having already confirmed that Mane wants to leave Anfield this summer, there’s good reason to think that Kopites have seen the fabled front three play together for the final time already.
It’s a sad reality when you consider just how much Mane, Firmino and Salah’s dynamic so perfectly distilled the ‘heavy-metal football’ that Klopp has been fostering on Merseyside ever since his arrival.
While Firmino might be the most recognisable number nine of the triumvirate, even the Brazilian would often play atypically to the role of a centre forward by dropping deep and focusing on interplay.
Therefore, give or take the occasional tension between Mane and Salah, you always got the feeling that Liverpool‘s front three acted as a fluid, adaptable and interchangeable collective focused on the wider team.
Firmino allows Mane to score
And the selflessness amongst Liverpool’s legendary trio was arguably never better shown than in an oft-forgotten moment from the 2017/18 season where Firmino refused to steal a goal from Mane.
During Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Stoke City in the Premier League that year, Mane opened the scoring in the 17th minute with a chipped shot that slowly bobbled over the line having taken a nick off of Lee Grant’s glove.
Firmino duly chased up the ball in order to ensure that it would indeed cross the line and it slowed down so much that the Liverpool striker was suddenly within inches of stealing Mane’s glory.
But instead of simply toe-poking the ball home for a goal of his own, the former Hoffenheim man decided to shepherd it over the line to ensure that it was still Mane who could claim the opener.
Firmino could've easily nabbed Mané's goal. Sums him up: selfless player. What a guy 🔴🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/NEr2mmZiJp— Raj Chohan (@rajsinghchohan) November 29, 2017
A costly decision at the time?
Now, that alone is a lovely act of selflessness from Firmino because there are plenty of other players who would have popped their foot out at the last second to add another goal to their personal tally.
However, it’s even more generous when you consider that Firmino reportedly missed out on a cool £45,000 that night because he didn’t find the back of the net despite having a clear opportunity to do so.
That’s because, according to the Mirror, a report from ‘Football Leaks: The Dirty Business of Football’ at the time claimed that Firmino was offered incentivised bonuses to supplement his basic wage of £68,085-a-week.
The report explained that Firmino pocketed £25,000 for each of his first five goals in a season, £45,000 for goals six to 10 and then £65,000 for strikes 11 and beyond.
And with Firmino having amassed nine goals for the season going into the trip to Stoke, it meant that the Brazilian would have nabbed £45,000 there and then had he decided to steal the goal.
Now that’s what you call being a team player.
And to say that it worked out for Firmino anyway would be the mother of all understatements because he actually went on to enjoy his most prolific season at Liverpool ever with no less than 27 strikes.
Maybe Bobby was playing the long game and knew he’d snatch that £45,000 sooner rather than later anyway…