LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 19, 2014: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia celebrates scoring the second goal against Queens Park Rangers with team-mate captain Steven Gerrard during the Premier League match at Loftus Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Steven Gerrard refuses to talk interest in “special footballer” Coutinho

Steven Gerrard has described former Liverpool team-mate Philippe Coutinho as a “special footballer” while refusing to comment on speculation linking him with a January move to Aston Villa.

The Brazilian playmaker looks destined to leave Barcelona this month, with the Catalan giants keen to reduce their wage bill after signing Ferran Torres from Manchester City for £55 million.

Gerrard and Coutinho were Liverpool team-mates for two-and-a-half years – the pair coming close to winning the Premier League title at Anfield in 2014 – and Villa have been strongly linked with the 29-year-old amid reported interest from other English clubs.

Asked if he understood such interest in Coutinho, who left Liverpool for Barcelona in a £142m move in January 2018, Gerrard said: “He’s won two league titles at Barcelona, two Copa del Reys.

“If you go and have a look at his Wiki page you’ll see a serial winner wherever he goes.

“He’s won 63 caps for Brazil, played for Barcelona and was incredible at Liverpool.

“So I can understand why he’s linked to a lot of football clubs. I can understand why a lot of supporters up and down the country are speaking about him.

“I don’t think you get a nickname of ‘The Magician’ if you’re not a special footballer.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 13, 2014: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia celebrates scoring the third goal against Manchester City during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Gerrard says he understands transfer speculation around Villa as “it is that time of the season.”

But, speaking to reporters ahead of Villa’s FA Cup third-round trip to Manchester United on Monday, Gerrard added: “[Coutinho] is someone I’ve got an incredible amount of respect for, but I don’t want to add to any speculation because he belongs to Barcelona.

“I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about the player.

“He’s a friend of mine so if I’m asked the questions I can speak for as long as you want. But if you’re trying to link it to any speculation or catch me out you’re in for a long afternoon.

“A lot of names are bandied around and, for the sake of our supporters, when there’s something concrete they’ll be the first to know.”