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Philippe Coutinho: Past, Present & Future

Liam from ‘3 On 1 Counter’ discusses Liverpool’s hottest prospect, young Brazilian Philippe Coutinho.

Phillipe Coutinho is an eye-catching player. No matter what club he has been at, the Brazilian has regularly impressed. He came through the ranks at his boyhood club, Vasco da Gama. Following a host of successful performances, Coutinho signed a pre-contract with Italian giants, Inter Milan, at the raw age of just sixteen. However, he did not join until he was 18. Doing so worked well for both parties; The youngster was given time to continue his development in his native Brazil, whilst Inter Milan knew they were going to inherit a top talent.

Coutinho bowed out at Vasco on good terms. His last act of honour for the club was winning the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie B trophy in 2009. This ensured that Vasco were promoted to Brazil’s top flight after a one-year absence. It was a short-lived triumph for Coutinho, who was packing his bags for Inter Milan. His two-year ‘loan’ spell at Vasco ended and Coutinho was officially an Inter Milan player.

Despite dazzling the crowds of the San Siro, Coutinho struggled for consistency at Internazionale. and found himself in and out of the first team. It is not unheard of for this to happen to young players as their form fluctuates, but it certainly knocked his confidence. Although rare, Coutinho’s moments of brilliance were breathtaking. After a spell on the bench, Coutinho returned to the line-up against Bayern München. A game of huge importance, as Inter were the reigning European champions.

Did Coutinho crumble under pressure? Not in the slightest.

The Brazilian’s highlight of the game was a memorable one. He played a beautifully executed pass to Samuel Eto’o who teed up Wesley Sneijder for the decisive goal. Inter qualified for the quarter-finals after winning 3-2 and advanced on away goals.

It may not seem a lot, but Coutinho had a massive impact on that game. That pass highlighted the talent that Coutinho has in his locker, it just needs to be utilized correctly.

With Wesley Sneijder occupying the attacking midfielders role, Coutinho was forced out wide. Sneijder was one of the worlds best trequartista’s at the time which possessed an enormous challenge for the timid Coutinho. Coutinho failed to hold down a first team place at Inter Milan. In January 2012, he went on loan to Spanish side Espanyol until the end of the season. A disappointing moment in the early stages of his career, but it worked out well for all concerned. Coutinho managed to get regular playing time, Espanyol got some quality in for the short-term and Inter would be welcoming back an improved Coutinho, once again.

Under current Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino, Coutinho flourished. He was given the freedom to play in the hole behind the striker. In his 16 appearances, Coutinho looked the business. A well-executed volley against Racing Santander and a free kick against high-flying Malaga were two memorable goals that again had the footballing world talking about this talented young Brazilian.

Coutinho thrived in La Liga due to the pace of the game and the freedom Pochettino afforded him. He dictated the pace and brought his teammates into the game. Once Coutinho had found his feet and was playing with confidence, the other Espanyol players were benefitting.
His successful loan spell came to an end and Coutinho returned to Inter Milan, hoping he had done enough to warrant a place in the Inter team.

The first six months of the current season saw Coutinho receive ample chances to showcase his talents. However, just three starts in Serie A and seven appearances from the bench showed he still wasn’t making a big enough impact. However, those appearance figures could have been even lower if Inter were not in a stand-off with Wesley Sneijder. If you remove Wesley Sneijder and the club’s financial complications, Coutinho could have appeared even less.

Come January and Coutinho was in the same predicament as he was when he first arrived. Game time was hard to come by. Luckily for him, Liverpool were in the hunt for a player of his calibre. A bid of around £8.5 million was accepted by Inter Milan and Coutinho was confirmed as Liverpool’s latest signing.

I for one couldn’t believe the signing. A real coup from Liverpool, a club whose recent transfer dealings have not been very impressive. Inflated fees for Stewart Downing, Joe Allen and Andy Carroll have been the pinnacle of Liverpool’s recent business, so Coutinho’s arrival was a breath of fresh air. A decent transfer fee for a player who has the world at his feet and promises a lot. His technique is already of a high standard, but it will only continue to improve in the Premier League.

Since Coutinho’s first couple of months on Merseyside, my judgement is that creativity is the strongest attribute of his game. A real flair player who looks to provide assists for his teammates in any way he sees fit. Coutinho has it all to become one of the best trequartista’s in the game.

His range of passing is phenomenal. Passing is a key attribute to any players game, especially if you are playing in a tiki-taka style. He has started his time at Liverpool like a house on fire. If his range of passing and ability continue to impress and improve, Coutinho will thrive under Brendan Rodgers’ guidance.

Coutinho is also not afraid to dribble with the ball. His control is sensational for a 20-year-old. He keeps the ball so close to the outside of his boot whilst carrying it forward at pace. Coutinho is a bag of tricks. Fancy flicks, step overs and quick footwork takes him past his man and makes him a tough player to mark. Coutinho has been very impressive since his arrival at Anfield and I feel he has a huge future ahead of him.
It appears the man who signed Coutinho is also pleased with his performances.

Brendan Rodgers on Coutinho:

“I think Coutinho is a top player already, considering his young age. He might be small in stature but you can see his strength.

“Coutinho’s got all the passes in the bag. He makes some wonderful passes and the weight of his passing is incredible.”

An Experts Opinion:

I am a fan of Phillipe Coutinho. However, I wanted to learn more about him from an expert. Seleção Brasileira (BrazilStats) gave me an insight on Phillipe Coutinho when he took the time to answer a few questions I had.

Given Coutinho’s style of play, which Brazilian player of any generation could he be best compared to?

– I can’t find a Brazilian legend to compare him to. I think when he develops a bit more, he can be like Özil. I find many similarities. Both of them have vision, ball control and can dribble. They don’t score as much as they provide assists. But of course, it doesn’t mean he has no similarities with other Brazilian legends, I just can’t find one now. Maybe once he develops more and nears his peak, it would be easier to compare him to a legend.

With Scolari giving players a chance before 2014, could Coutinho possibly go to the World Cup?

– I don’t think performances like the one against Chelsea will help him. Scolari said he will only take Ronaldinho or Kaká. This leaves Coutinho competing with the very in form Diego, one of Kaká/ Ronaldinho and the very highly-rated Bernard. But for me, Jádson has the edge on them all. He was Brazil’s best player against Chile.

If Coutinho cannot compete with the likes of Ronaldinho and Kaká for a central berth, what about playing wide of the front three?

– It’s not really clear, but apparently Scolari will play 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders and two attacking midfielders. The two attacking midfielders are likely to be Oscar and Ronaldinho. This leaves Coutinho to compete with Neymar who has started all 32 of his appearances for Brazil. Even Willian hasn’t been called to rotate with Neymar.

It is important for Coutinho to gain stability. Is Liverpool the right club for him to maximize his potential?

– He is happy at Liverpool. He has already been voted player of the month and the players are talking well of him. I guess yes, but he needs time. And I am sure he will eventually reach the national team after the World Cup. He already made his debut two years ago against Barcelona B.

Does Coutinho offer more than his Chelsea counterpart Oscar? What separates the two?

– Well, Oscar has clearly been the national team’s best player since 2011. If you ask me, Coutinho has the potential to surpass him. I find Coutinho as a better dribbler than him and with better vision. Oscar doesn’t score enough nor provide enough assists for a number 10. However, he’s great in the passing game and the build up play, crosses etc. I say he’s now ahead of Philippe, but Coutinho has the potential to be better. I see him as the next Mesut Özil if he develops his vision. He’s a true number 10, I find Oscar more of a number 8. For me, that is the biggest difference.

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Personal Opinion:

For me, Coutinho offers flair from the midfield for Liverpool. His versatility is priceless. Coutinho can play on either wing or through the middle. I think to utilize Coutinho correctly, he should be playing in a central role. Behind Luis Suarez, the pair could form a lethal partnership. Suarez’ movement  and Coutinho’s excellent passing ability could make it a fruitful partnership for the long-term. Coutinho’s talents playing centrally are too good to be wasted out wide. He can still play his game out wide, but not to the same effect.

As most unnatural wingers do, they tend to drift into their favoured central position or cut in when they have possession. I don’t mind seeing Coutinho play out wide, but if he gets caught out then it leaves large gaps for the full backs to push up through.

However, Liverpool have acquired a top talent. He is yet another stereotypical Seleção national. Speedy, tricky and extremely talented and confident on the ball. If all goes to plan, then Liverpool could be dealing with a world-class talent.

What do YOU think? Can Coutinho reach his potential?

Sport Is Everything. Liam (3 On 1 Counter).

Follow Liam on Twitter – Liam10Lee
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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.