Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insisted he had never lost faith in Roberto Firmino when the Brazilian was worried by a lack of goals before scoring four in three matches including the Club World Cup final.
Firmino, known affectionately to Klopp as Bobby, met with Klopp after a worrying run of one goal in 16 appearances.
But the German told Firmino he was in the side for more than just his goals, since when he’s been on a spree.
FHe followed up his goals in the semi-final and final of the Club World Cup with a Boxing Day double in the Premier League leaders’ 4-0 rout of nearest challengers Leicester City.
Firmino’s goals against the Foxes led to an embrace with Klopp on the touchline at Leicester’s King Power Stadium.
“Journalists told me he hadn’t scored for a while, but the thing about Bobby is that I don’t think about scoring,” Klopp explained.
“I think about how important he is, so we had a little talk and I told him. For the first time he was a little bit concerned about that fact (he had not scored in so many games), and I told him I was not interested in that number.
“He is the connector for our team, he is so important for us. He is the only one who can play the position, and he plays the position in a very special way.
“He doesn’t have to come (for a hug) with every goal, but this time we had a little thing where, after being calm enough to leave him on the pitch in games that I never thought about (his lack of goals), he thought he would say thank you.”
Liverpool, bidding to be crowned English champions for the first time in 30 years, are 13 points clear at the top after thrashing Leicester.
They have now extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 35 matches, with Liverpool’s last loss in the top flight a 2-1 defeat by Manchester City on January 3.
Liverpool, who next face Wolves at Anfield on Sunday, are closing in on Arsenal’s all-time top-flight record of 49 unbeaten matches, set from May 2003 to October 2004.