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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Stephen Killen

Nathan Ake says toughest opponent who is leaving Liverpool 'could do everything'

Manchester City defender Nathan Ake has claimed that Roberto Firmino is the toughest player he has come up against with Mohamed Salah proving "very difficult".

The Reds forward has proved to be a thorn in the side of opponents since arriving from Hoffenheim in 2015. Firmino has enjoyed successful run-outs against the Dutchman's current club and former home, Bournemouth.

He has been enjoying a positive campaign with the Citizens after his future remained unclear last season as Pep Guardiola's side challenge Arsenal for the Premier League title. In one of the Sky Blues' few defeats in the English top-flight, the 28-year-old had to defend against the Liverpool forward during the 1-0 win for Jurgen Klopp's side.

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Speaking in an interview with Hype Beat, Ake namedropped two of the Anfield stars but it's the Brazilian who has been rated harder to defend than the Egyptian.

"Firmino was always a tough one because he could do everything – cuts in, drops deep, very good with the ball," the Holland international said on his hardest opponent.

He added: "Lately, as I’ve been playing at left back, players like Saka & Salah are very difficult as well."

Firmino's successful chapter on Merseyside is set to come to an end at the end of the season when he is out of contract. A decision which is likely to please Ake and he isn't the only defender to make a claim about the 31-year-old.

Current AC Milan defender and former Chelsea stopper, Fikayo Tomori, highlighted both Firmino and Salah's strengths speaking in 2020.

"It has been different for me this season, just because it is the Premier League and it is a step up. You have to be more focused and prepared, always alert," he said previously.

"In the Championship you have a lot of different strikers - some love it in the air or like to go in behind. But then I'm playing against [Roberto] Firmino and he's dropping deep into midfield. Things happen a lot faster and mistakes are punished more harshly.

"Firmino was probably the most difficult [to play against] - along with Salah. Every time they got the ball, I was thinking, 'This is a challenge but this is where I want to be - this is a chance to prove that I can play at this level.'"


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