Joelinton follows Firmino from Hoffenheim to the Premier League | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 23.07.2019
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Joelinton follows Firmino from Hoffenheim to the Premier League

Hoffenheim have again broken their club transfer record by shipping a young Brazilian striker to the English Premier League. Joelinton moves to Newcastle, but are there echoes of Roberto Firmino joining Liverpool?

There's nothing quite like the sale of a Brazilian attacking talent, at least not in the eyes of Hoffenheim's accountants. 

Joelinton's transfer to Newcastle has brought in a reported €44 million, eclipsing the €41 million Liverpool paid for Roberto Firmino in 2015. Granted, the pound's value has dipped markedly in the intervening years; so in terms of pounds Sterling, Joelinton was the considerably more expensive of the two.

Similarities between the two Brazilian strikers abound, with 22-year-old Joelinton making his move to England at a similar stage in his career as Firmino, who was 23 at the time. But to what extent does the comparison really stack up? Have the Magpies and their new manager Steve Bruce picked up a future Brazil regular, who's ready to make his mark at the next level?

Read more:  Sebastien Haller's Premier League move not without risk

Playing style

Liverpool didn't think they were buying a number 9 in Roberto Firmino. Only months after his transfer, when Jürgen Klopp arrived on Merseyside, did Firmino start playing as a "false 9" and really start to shine.

Joelinton's bigger, burlier frame is more suited to playing as an out-and-out striker. But make no mistake, the Brazilian is just as capable of leaving defenders on their backsides with sumptuous skill as he is with his sheer strength. 

Roberto Firmino celebrates a goal for Hoffenheim with Kevin Volland and Jannik Vestergaard. August 17, 2013. (picture-alliance/dpa)

The last Brazilian forward to leave Hoffenheim for England turned out alright

Capable of playing as a second striker, or even on the right wing, he will drop back and demand the ball during build-up play. He laid on as many goals as he scored, seven apiece, in the Bundesliga for Hoffenheim this season.

Pedigree and potential

Firmino had a shaky 18 months or so at Hoffenheim before finding his feet in the Bundesliga. Perhaps having learned from this, Hoffenheim loaned Joelinton out to Rapid Vienna for two seasons after he'd spent a year on the fringes of the squad.

Joelinton was therefore more of an immediate hit on his return. Still, he doesn't make his move to the Premiership as an established Bundesliga star as Firmino did. 

Read more:  Bundesliga: Leroy Sane would tick several boxes at Bayern Munich

One solid season in a very strong side, in which Joelinton failed to hit double-figures in either goals or assists, was ultimately enough to convince Newcastle to splash the cash. His 15 goals over the course of two Austrian Bundesliga seasons don't exactly herald the arrival of a 30-a-season-striker either.

Firmino also scored just seven during his final Bundesliga season with Hoffenheim, but he'd netted 16 and laid on 12 in the previous campaign, helping transform them from relegation candidates into mid-table competitors. Joelinton simply slotted in as an extra member of an already-effective attacking unit, vying to qualify for European football again.

If you were looking for Hoffenheim's most important attacker of 2018-19, you'd look first to 28-year-old Andrej Kramaric and his 17 goals. But perhaps he's not as shrewd an investment for the future?

Career progression

This comparison struggles most of all when you look at the transfers from the players' perspectives, asking whether it makes sense for their career trajectories. 

Firmino's move was not without risk, and questions were asked early in his stay about his price tag and his future at Liverpool. But there was no denying he was climbing several rungs on the European club ladder, moving from mid-table in the Bundesliga to a Liverpool side that had just missed out on the Premier League title in 2014-15. 

Joelinton, on the other hand, departs a Hoffenheim team that narrowly missed out on European football and has been in regular contention towards the top of the table in recent years.

Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann and attacker Joelinton embrace as the striker is substituted out of a Bundesliga match against Hanover 96. February 16, 2019. (picture-alliance/M. Deines)

In coaching terms, Joelinton is trading in Julian Nagelsmann for Steve Bruce

Going on past seasons' form, and the ongoing ownership saga that has so upset the Magpies' fans, a more difficult situation awaits Joelinton on Tyneside. Yes, the club managed to finish 13th last season thanks in no small part to departed manager Rafa Benitez. But Benitez has since been replaced by Steve Bruce, an old school center back in his playing days who's had stints at 10 clubs as manager — usually either fighting to get into the Premier League, or to stay there. Rumors of a takeover, so common in recent years and clearly desired by fans opposed to current owner Mark Ashley, are yet to solidify into a sale.

Joelinton has at least timed his Hoffenheim departure to coincide with that of Julian Nagelsmann, arguably the Bundesliga's hottest coaching property, who is moving to RB Leipzig in the off-season.

Read more:  Bundesliga transfers: Where should the Champions League clubs look to strengthen?


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