Newcastle manager Steve Bruce has heaped praise on Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino – evening comparing him to Manchester United legend Eric Cantona.
The Brazil international continued his excellent start to the season, coming off the bench to help Liverpool recover from a goal down and beat Newcastle 3-1 in Saturday’s lunchtime clash.
Jetro Willems’ stunning strike gave the Toon a shock lead, but a brace from Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah’s lone strike helped extend Liverpool’s winning run and send them five points clear at the top of the Premier League.
However, many of the plaudits were reserved for Firmino, who replaced Divock Origi on 37 minutes and played a crucial part in two goals at Anfield.
Last month, he became the first Brazilian to score 50 goals in Premier League history when he struck against Burnley, and Newcastle boss Bruce noticed similarities between Firmino and his former team-mate Cantona.
“He’s one that drifts into that little area and he naturally does it, where it’s so difficult for defenders to go,” said Bruce, who played alongside Cantona in United’s title-winning sides of the 1990s.
“And his attitude and work-rate, it’s so important. Of course, their [Liverpool’s] front three are as good as you are going to play against as a threat to you.
“The way they play with the intensity, the full-backs are only young and the delivery and presence they bring to the box you can see why they are Champions of Europe.
“Cantona is as good a player as I’ve ever seen. I haven’t seen Firmino week in week out like that, but just when you see him here and what he gives them, it’s a perfect balance. And Cantona gave us that.”
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Firmino has hit double figures for goals in each of his four years at Liverpool, and he’ll hope to extend his record for a fifth consecutive season having already netted twice this term.