Top-flight footballers are pampered and earn huge salaries – but for Liverpool star Roberto Firmino, there was nothing comfortable about his route to success.
The Brazilian international had to dodge gunfire during training in the troubled neighbourhood where he grew up, playing in borrowed boots.
His parents were so fearful the youngster would get caught up with gangs that they would not let him out to play.
And The Sun can reveal that five of his teammates in Maceio, on the east coast of Brazil, had been murdered in turf wars before they turned 19.
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Roberto, though, dreamt of winning the Premier League. And thanks to his singular
determination to get away from the shanty towns — known as favelas — his wish came true with Liverpool last week.
When the Reds are presented with the trophy, after a 30-year drought, no smile will be bigger or brighter than that of the team’s No. 9.
He is known as having the whitest teeth in the side, so much so that manager Jurgen Klopp visited Roberto’s dentist after being ribbed for his off-colour gnashers.
The 28-year-old striker, who fans affectionately call Bobby, will also surely share the immense joy of him being rewarded for his perseverance.
Back in Maceio, the coach who first spotted Roberto’s talents told The Sun of the risks the youngster took to go to training.
The star joined amateur youth side Flamenguinho when he was nine and helped them win 30 trophies.
Andre Lima Teixeira, former coach of Flamenguinho, the first amateur team Roberto played for as a child, said: “He might well have taken the wrong path and ended up dead too if his life hadn’t taken the turn it did.
“It was especially dangerous round here when Roberto was growing up.
“Often, when the time came for them to come for training, Roberto and the other boys had to stay at home, locked in, because the gunfire had started up.
“At other times, when they were on their way for training or a meeting, the shooting would start and they would have to run and hide underneath their beds.”
Roberto’s dad Jose Cordeiro was a street vendor selling bottled water outside football grounds.
Sometimes Roberto would help his dad by passing on change to the customers.
His mother, Mariana, stayed home to look after the children.
Their home was in Trapiche da Barra, an impoverished neighbourhood next to a dangerous favela and a polluted lake.
Both parents wanted a better life for young Roberto and did everything they could to bring him up properly.
When friends invited the youngster for a street kickabout he had to sneak out by leaping over the wall.
Once he fell to the ground and injured his knee, and he still has the scar today.
Jose Cicero da Silva, 29, known as Toto, was a childhood friend.
Now working as a plasterer and still living in Trapiche, the dad of a two-month-old daughter said: “I was his friend from 13 to 17 years old. I was about 12 when I started playing for Flamenguinho.
“I lived four to five streets up from Roberto. We went to training together.
“His mother wouldn’t let him play. So we would go and knock on his door and call him to come, otherwise he wouldn’t go. It was a good time.
“We were on the young team, aged 12 to 13. We were poor so each one borrowed their boots from another one.
“I think God knows what he does. Roberto is where he is because of his hard work. I follow his career and see the Liverpool games.
“Flamenguinho was really important in his career. Andre made us run on the sand. Even without many resources he still managed to train us really well.
“I remember how many of the boys on the team ended up dead because they got involved in drugs gangs.
“It’s worse now because boys don’t have anything to keep them away from crime.”
Andre recalled: “Roberto’s mother and father didn’t used to let him play football with us.
“The other boys didn’t like going there to call for him because they always said no.
“So I would pick him up and drop him off at the doorstep.
“It was the only way his parents would allow him to play.”
Everyone from Roberto’s old neighbourhood has described him as a shy and humble boy.
One coach even worried he was mute, because he said so little.
At the age of 19, Roberto was on his way to Europe, having been signed by German side Hoffenheim, and five years ago he joined Liverpool for £29 million.
By that time five of his friends from his youth team who stayed at home had been brutally killed.
Andre said: “They died after getting involved in the drugs gangs.
“They were all 17 or 18, murdered by members of rival factions.”
Roberto now earns £180,000 a week on Merseyside, and last week he arrived for training in a £165,000 yellow Lamborghini Urus.
He is also known for his eye-catching designer clothes and an often-changing haircut.
But he has never forgotten the people of Brazil.
Roberto has paid for two brothers with spinal muscular atrophy to receive vital treatment, distributed food parcels in his old neighbourhood and helped other friends.
He also paid for a plush new home for his beloved parents.
All this he has done secretly.
Roberto’s wife Larissa, a model, said: “The most beautiful thing is that he does it without wanting anything in return. It’s from the heart.”
The couple met in 2014 and married three years ago in a lavish ceremony in his home town.
They have two daughters, Valentina, six, and Bella, four, who often appear on his Instagram feed.
The girls are always pictured dressed in matching clothes and standing next to their beaming father.
When lockdown started in the UK on March 23, Roberto posted a video of himself singing at the piano with the girls.
In another image he did some home schooling with his daughters, sporting spectacles.
Family is very important to the South American.
Valentina’s name is tattooed across his chest and he has a picture of his mum’s face inked on his right bicep.
Other body art includes a picture of the Champions League trophy being held aloft last summer, when Liverpool beat Spurs in the final, and the word “Blessed” on his torso.
There is just about enough room left on his body to add a tattoo of the Premier League trophy.
Undoubtedly, Roberto’s creative flair and his goals have been central to Liverpool’s success under manager Klopp.
His cheeky flicks, deft feints and neat passes offer goalscoring opportunities to his fellow two frontmen Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.
Liverpool legend John Barnes even hailed Roberto as the team’s “most important player”.
Having been at the club longer than all of the regular starting 11, apart from captain Jordan Henderson, winning the league will be all the sweeter for the long-serving Brazilian.
And it certainly makes a long-held, seemingly impossible, dream come true.
His old coach Andre said: “For a lot of Brazilian boys, their dream is to play for Barcelona.
“But Roberto knew the Premier League is the best in the world and winning it was his biggest dream of all.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and is reproduced with permission.