By 90Min
March 23, 2018

Liverpool moved to sign Hoffenheim striker Roberto Firmino in 2015 for £29m, but things could have been so different, with the Brazilian initially destined for Marseille six years earlier.

According to the Liverpool Echo, former Figueirense director Erasmo Damiani has detailed the unlikely story of why the then-teenager was forced to cancel his trial at the French team. 

Firmino was on his way to the south of France, stopping over in Madrid to change flights. Back in 2009, Spanish immigration laws were very stringent towards Brazilians due to diplomatic tensions between the two nations, with every arrival at Madrid-Barajas Airport needing to provide several pieces of information which the youngster didn't have.

"Marseille had asked us to let him spend a few weeks with them, and we agreed," he said. "Back then, every Brazilian that traveled to Spain had to present a bunch of documents, including credit card, health insurance, proof of accommodation - there was this whole restriction policy."

"He wasn't going to stay in Madrid; it was just a stop, but they didn't let him continue his trip." Damiani got on the phone to the immigration officers to plead with them to let Firmino through, even going so far as to send a fax detailing the amount of time he would be spending at Marseille, but to no avail.

AFP Contributor/GettyImages

"Roberto called his mother in Maceio (a city in northeast Brazil) in tears," Damiani added. "I had to phone Barajas Airport and tell a police officer he was a football player, but they didn't listen to me. They just decided to deport him back to Brazil."

A month later, Marseille issued another invitation to the young Brazilian to join them for a trial, and this time, the 17-year-old booked a direct flight to France. After monitoring his progress for a month, the French club ultimately decided not to pay his €1m release clause and he returned to Figueirense.

Daniel Kopatsch/GettyImages

Two years later, Firmino moved to Hoffenheim, scoring 49 goals in four-and-a-half-seasons before Brendan Rodgers brought him to Anfield. Were it not for an errant immigration officer in Madrid, Liverpool's number nine might be gracing the Stade Velodrome rather than the north-west. 


The Reds must be thankful that is not the case, with the Brazilian hitting 23 goals already in all competitions this season.

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