Four years to the day since Liverpool signed Philippe Coutinho, former director of football Damien Comolli has revealed how ex-Reds manager Rafa Benítez’s input was a huge factor in his signature.
The Brazilian international has become a fan faourite at Anfield since completing an £8.5m transfer from Inter Milan in 2013, a move which former Nerazzurri director Piro Ausilio still regrets allowing to happen.
In an interview with ESPN, Comolli explained that because of the massive outlay in the months prior to the 2012/13 pre-season (which included the likes of Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing being bought for vast sums of money), that spending in the summer would be limited to €10 per player, and each new arrival had to be under the age of 21:
“In the spring of 2012, the owners told me that we had a limited spending budget per player of €10 million and we could only sign players who were under 21.
“I said to the scout: ‘Coutinho becomes our priority’ because we were looking for a wide player to replace Dirk Kuyt. He (Coutinho) was not available because Inter transferred him to Espanyol [on loan] later on.”
Comolli revealed the recommendation to sign the then 19-year-old had come from Benítez. The Spaniard worked briefly with Coutinho at the San Siro before he was sacked in winter 2010, and told Liverpool’s academy director Frank McParland that Coutinho was a player with lots of potential, and that he might be attainable because Inter didn’t realise how good he would go on to become:
“We didn’t even know he was that good – it was difficult to watch him play because he was never playing at Inter. We knew about him, we knew he was good, but it was only when Rafa said he’s going to be world-class.
“When somebody like Rafa says a thing about a player like this, you listen. The head of recruitment said he was the best we could get. But I was sacked, then Kenny (Dalglish) was sacked.”
In the end, Coutinho was brought to Anfield by Dalglish’s replacement in January, in a month that also saw Daniel Sturridge join with both players costing a combined £21m. His recent form has led to speculation linking him with Barcelona, but signing a five-year deal last week has put that to bed for the time being.