Fabinho on 'special' Firmino, departing Reds and Southampton aim
Fabinho has revealed his personal gratitude to Roberto Firmino ahead of the No.9's last Liverpool fixture this weekend.
Firmino came off the bench to net a late equaliser against Aston Villa last Saturday, marking his final Anfield appearance for the Reds in memorable fashion before his departure this summer.
Fabinho has shared five of his compatriot’s eight years with the club, which will come to an end this Sunday when Jürgen Klopp’s side complete the Premier League campaign away to Southampton.
And the midfielder added to the tributes being paid to Firmino by explaining the impact his teammate and friend has had on his own career at Liverpool.
“It was really nice that he scored in his last home game,” Fabinho told Liverpoolfc.com during an interview at the AXA Training Centre.
“It was a hard game, a tough game against Aston Villa – they played really well and defended really well. We needed somebody like Bobby there to help us and I was really happy for him. I was happy for Mo [Salah] as well because Mo gave the assist; and we know what they did together and the combination with Sadio [Mane], so it was special for those two to be involved in the goal.
“We all will miss Bobby. You can see how special he is for the fans, for us the players. For me personally, he was really important for me since my arrival at the club, the way he welcomed me, he helped me to adapt in the club, in the city.
“I didn’t expect this moment to arrive because for me Bobby means Liverpool but unfortunately we have to say goodbye to him and I just wish the best for him and his family.”
Three players with whom Fabinho has frequently joined forces in midfield since he signed in 2018 will also bid farewell to Liverpool following the end of the season.
Naby Keita, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are set to embark on new chapters in their careers having each played their part in the Reds lifting six major honours under Klopp.
“These are great players, played a minimum five years for the club and the three of them won everything at the club,” began Fabinho’s tribute to the trio.
“I remember, Naby and I arrived together at the club. I remember the pre-season – he adapted much faster than me! He was playing since the first game against West Ham, he started that game and he was playing really well.
“I always loved to play with him because we understand each other really well, and we will miss him. Out of the pitch, Naby is something really special, really funny and nice to be around.
“Ox, since my arrival he struggled a little bit with injuries – when I arrived his knee was injured. But he was a really nice guy as well, nice to be around and nice to play together as well.
“He always said I don’t talk too much on the pitch but when I talk it’s because I’m right! So when I say something he says, ‘I just try to listen to you because I know you say something right.’ He is a nice guy and I wish the best for him as well.
“And Millie, I remember Millie when I arrived at the club, he helped me with his Spanish – he speaks really good Spanish so he was important for me.
“When a new midfielder arrives at a club, you never know the way the other midfielders will treat you, how their reaction will be. But Millie didn’t care that I was a midfielder, that I was fighting for a position with him, he was really nice to me.
“That’s what a captain does, he was one of the captains of the team and his actions speak for themselves because he’s really nice.”
Liverpool make the journey to St Mary’s this weekend knowing that they will finish the season in fifth place in the Premier League regardless of the result.
Reflecting on the campaign as a whole, Fabinho said: “The way we finished the season was really good, this shows we can fight for bigger things.
“Seven [wins] in a row [before the draw with Villa] and 10 games without a defeat, it’s really impressive and important for us, for our confidence, finishing this way.
“But, unfortunately, overall it wasn’t our best season, many ups and downs in the season. Before the World Cup we had some injuries that didn’t help the team.
“In general I think we can take positive things from the season – some players stepped up, had the opportunity and played really well. It’s the case of Stefan Bajcetic.
“Cody [Gakpo] arrived and now I think he is playing his best football. Darwin [Nunez] as well was important, I think for his first season he has good numbers. You can say it’s his adapting season, so he played good.
“So we can take a lot of important things [from] this season but overall it wasn’t our best.”
He added: “Our goal is always to fight for the trophy, for the Premier League. So we know we can’t start the way we started, we have to be much better since the beginning of the league. I think that’s an important thing to have in mind for the next season.”
For Southampton, meanwhile, Sunday’s encounter represents their final home game of the season before they drop down to the Championship next term.
And though neither side can alter their position in the table, Fabinho detailed the multiple motivations Liverpool have to clinch three points on the south coast.
“They have the last game of the season at home so of course they want to do well in front of their fans, even though they are already relegated,” said the No.3.
“They want to finish the season the best way possible, but we want to finish our season the best way possible – that means with three points and a win. Our away fans will be there so it will be nice to give this for them as well.
“And for us as players, always when you go to the pitch with the Liverpool shirt it’s another opportunity to play your best football and try to win, and we will try to do it.”
A summer break will follow the Reds’ trip to Southampton, though Fabinho admits he will be counting down the days to pre-season and the chance to improve on the 2022-23 campaign.
The 29-year-old finished: “We have some time to rest with our family [in the summer], with a little bit of sun. We will try to do it – but our head will be already in the pre-season, in the next season because as a player you know we need a rest but our head is always on football.
“My head is always thinking about Liverpool and coming back in the best shape possible and to get ready for the next season.”