“Coutinho had me up off my seat. He’s a player you would pay money to watch. He’s just a delight on the ball,” said Brendan Rodgers last week. Brian Irvine takes a look at the Brazilian’s possible impact on the Liverpool team this season.
Much of Liverpool’s plans for the forthcoming season rely on the future of Luis Suarez, whose amorous glances elsewhere have landed the club in a serious predicament over his replacement. His goals can be replaced although his rare trait of spark and creativity less so. January acquisition Philippe Coutinho however, could be the man to step up to overtake Suarez’s mantle as Liverpool’s ‘go-to man’ when the team are desperate for a sprinkling of magic required to break down a stubborn defence.
I’ll admit, I knew very little of Coutinho prior to his arrival at Anfield and unlike some people you might see claim online; I haven’t been following his career from the moment he stepped onto the pitch at Vasco da Gama through spells at Internazionale and Espanyol.
So with a limited knowledge other than a the obligatory YouTube search and a smattering of Serie A highlights I welcomed his transfer to The Red with a ‘we’ll see how he works out’ attitude. Like may of fans on the Kop I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw. Coutinho displayed a fearless attitude from the get-go in not letting the pressure of playing for a new club distract him from his natural desire to press forward and take defenders on.
His mixture of skill, dribbling ability, tidy short-passing game, pace and shooting make him perhaps the archetypal player for Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool philosophy and probably the owner’s too joining the club at a budget £8.5m.
What has impressed me most about the diminutive Brazilian though is his superb vision, passing range and reading of the game – a characteristic that has been arguably missing from the side since Alonso’s departure in 2008 (be it in a different area of the pitch). Some of the passes he executed during last reason were truly remarkable, passes I didn’t think he was capable of producing.
Coutinho of course, is not all about passing as is more than capable of scoring as well although one criticism I’d have is he could do with being more clinical. It’s a minor complaint though as it’s not his primary task in the team and more of a supplementary benefit.
At only 21 years old, Coutinho still has a lot more developing to do yet his early signs at Liverpool point to a prosperous career and a revival of one that many feel was stagnating at Inter. If the club shop’s shirt sales are anything to go by, he’s already won the hearts of many Liverpool supporters, fans who will hope to continue watching him blossom in a red shirt for years to come.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, Liverpool’s plan for the season hinges heavily on Suarez’s future, should he leave, Coutinho has the quality to fill the void in the creative sense. The idea of Coutinho ‘replacing’ Suarez might sound nonsensical given the Uruguayan’s world class reputation but if he builds on the foundations of the season past for each coming year there’s no reason why he can’t. Rumours of Diego Costa joining the club are intensifying who, along with Daniel Sturridge, Iago Aspas, Fabio Borini would shoulder the burden of replacing Suarez’s goal tally.
On the flip side, should Suarez not leave then all the better for Liverpool. A side of a flourishing Coutinho, Suarez, a fully-fit Sturridge, Aspas, Gerrard and the team’s raft of promising youngsters points to a potentially hugely successful season. A season that could see Phillipe Countinho burst onto centre stage as Liverpool’s latest emerging superstar or alternatively, share the limelight with football’s favourite pantomime villain – Luis Suarez.