Cologne - Following in the footsteps of Luiz Gustavo and Carlos Eduardo, fellow Brazilian Roberto Firmino has won a firm place in the TSG 1899 Hoffenheim hearts in relatively no time at all.
However, as popular as he is at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, little is known about the young midfielder outside his adopted hometown of Sinsheim. Cue a bit of groundwork by bundesliga.com, who've rooted about the place to uncover more tidbits on the affable Brazilian than you can shake a stick at.
Roberto Firmino Barbosa de Oliveira was born on 2 October 1991 in Maceio, Brazil. A picturesque city in the north-east of the country with around 930,000 inhabitants, Maceio's other famous exports include Mario Zagallo - the first man to win the FIFA World Cup as both a player (1958 and 1962) and coach (1970) - and tough-tackling Real Madrid defender Kepler Laveran Lima Ferreira - Pepe, for short.
Firmino was picked up as a youngster by local outfit Clube de Regatas Brasil before signing his first professional contract at Tonbense FC, who immediately sent the 5' 11 midfielder out on loan to Serie B side Figueirense FC. It was here where he really made a name for himself, scoring seven times in 36 appearances and collecting the Player of the Season accolade in recognition of his impressive displays in the centre of the park.
Like so many aspiring Brazilian footballers, Firmino always dreamed of playing abroad and he got his wish in the winter of 2010 when Hoffenheim made their move. The transfer was not without its hitches though, with a mix-up involving parent club Tonbense and Figueirense threatening to scupper the deal altogether. Eventually, Hoffenheim got the right paperwork from the right people and Firmino put pen to paper on a four-year deal at the club.
Firmino's preferred position is in behind the front man, but he is just as at home on the flanks, in central midfield or up front. The Brazilian made his Bundesliga debut as a 75th-minute replacement for Sebastian Rudy in the 2-1 home defeat to 1. FSV Mainz 05 on 26 February 2011, and his first goal for the Kraichgau outfit came on 16 April of the same year, as Hoffenheim nicked a 1-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 30 of the 2010/11 campaign.
German natives are no stranger to punctuality, so it came as quite a surprise when Firmino, having seemingly settled in well to the way of life in his new home, decided to turn up late for training - not for the first time either. Despite scoring the equaliser in the 1-1 draw against SC Freiburg a week earlier, team manager Ernst Tanner (pictured) and coach Holger Stanislawski took the decision to suspend the Brazilian, along with former team-mate Chinedu Obasi on the grounds of them being "repeat offenders".
The management's cracking of the whip certainly had the desired effect, with Firmino becoming a regular fixture in Hoffenheim's starting eleven. His real breakthrough though, came in 2013/14 as he tapped into his unbridled potential to rack up 16 goals and 12 assists in 33 Bundesliga appearances, form that saw him become one of the new faces of the Brazil national team following the Mineirao Massacre against Germany.
Firmino's coming of age is all the more impressive given the serious injury he suffered towards the end of the 2011/12 campaign. The Hoffenheim camp feared the worst after a challenge from Freiburg's Fallou Diagne on 15 April 2012 left their prized asset prone on the deck. Initially thought to be a lower-leg break, the injury turned out to be serious ankle ligament damage. It is a testament to his character that Firmino was back in action just four months later.
A fan of body art, the 22-year-old decided to add to his collection with a little something in German, simply "because it looks cool". Opting to get inked is one thing, but using an internet translation engine to find the appropriate words is something else, as Firmino found out. "Familie unaufhörliche Liebe" was his message of choice - literally translated as "family, unending love". Little did he know there was an Umlaut [the two dots which alter the pronunciation to 'ö', ed.] missing over the ‘o’, something he promptly had remedied on arrival in Sinsheim.
"My family doesn't have to work anymore," affirmed the dedicated family man, whose father used to work day and night selling bottles of water on the streets of Maceio. Note the past tense: on 30 September 2011, the Brazilian was joined in Germany by his parents and then nine-year-old sister in the house he rented from compatriot and former Hoffenheim team-mate Luiz Gustavo.
Firmino is one of a growing number of footballers regularly posting random bits and bobs on the worldwide web. He has his own street art-themed webpage, a Facebook account and a Twitter feed (@Roberto_Firmino)with over 32,000 followers, all of whom can keep up to date with any changes in the body art department as well as more general goings-on in the superstar's life.
Compiled by Christopher Mayer-Lodge