Liverpool have signed Hoffenheim forward Roberto Firmino from under the noses of bitter rivals Manchester United, after agreeing a £30m deal for the Brazilian.
The 23-year-old Brazil international has agreed what Liverpool describe as “a long-term contract” and will undergo a medical once he completes his commitments at the Copa America.
Firmino has scored 47 goals in 151 appearances during his four and a half years in Germany and has scored four times in nine international caps, including Sunday’s Copa America winner against Venezuela.
The striker was on United manager Louis van Gaal’s list of summer targets, and one stage the Old Trafford club looked to be favourites to sign him.
But Liverpool won the race for the Hoffenheim star and will pay an initial £22million for him with add-ons likely to bring that figure up to £30m, making him the club’s second most expensive signing in their history, after the £35million purchase of Andy Carroll in January 2011. Firmino agreed a deal to move to Anfield after chief executive Ian Ayre flew out to Chile and the deal was finalised last night.
The money for Firmino was outlined as planned summer transfer spending and the club do not have to sell Sterling, for whom Manchester City’s second £40million offer was rejected earlier this month as they value him at £50million-plus, in order to balance the books.
They still have funds left for another centre-forward, with their sights set on Sevilla’s £20million-rated Colombia striker Carlos Bacca and Zenit St Petersburg’s Venezuelan Salomon Rondon, valued about £15million, who have both been in action at the Copa America.
Ayre is scheduled to remain in Chile for at least another 24 hours but Liverpool already had staff present at the tournament and they still retain interest in the South Americans after refusing to consider Aston Villa’s £32.5million release clause for Christian Benteke.
Liverpool are also remaining patient in their pursuit of Southampton’s England right-back Nathaniel Clyne, having already had a £10million bid turned down, as the recruitment programme aimed at regaining Champions League football continues.
Firmino is Liverpool’s fifth signing of the close-season having already recruited Burnley’s England Under-21 striker Danny Ings, Manchester City midfielder James Milner, Charlton defender Joe Gomez and Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan.
Manager Brendan Rodgers will hope Firmino, who made his professional debut for Figueirense at the age of 17 in October 2009 but left for Germany just over a year later, can bring more goals to his side.
Main striker Daniel Sturridge was injured for most of last season and so their top scorer with 13 was Steven Gerrard, who has now departed the club to join Major League Soccer side Los Angeles Galaxy, with Sterling next-best on 11.