Since making a January move from Inter Milan, Liverpool have seemingly picked up one of the buys of the season in young Brazilian play-maker Phillipe Coutinho.
To be honest, this is an article I was ready to write from the moment Liverpool picked up the rising star for a cheap £8.5 million. And since making his Liverpool debut, he has only worked to provide more merit to the article’s premise with his world-class potential starting to coming to fruition.
As a proud Inter fan, I had been watching the ongoing development of Coutinho in the Serie A with a great level of excitement since his 2010 arrival from Brazil’s Vasco da Gama. Such was his early potential, Inter had actually signed Coutinho (for €4 million) from the Brazilian team’s youth system in 2008 when he was only 16.
Despite some ongoing injury troubles during his time with Inter, when Coutinho did make the odd appearance, there was always a small glimpse of his potential to be the future of the Nerazzuri. A claim backed up by President Massimo Moratti.
In January 2012, Coutinho joined Espanyol on loan where he was able to further develop from first-team experience in the Spanish Primera Liga.
The stint in Spain seemed to fast-track Coutinho’s development, who re-joined the Nerazzuri first team in May and went on to star in the club’s Indonesian tour.
Unfortunately, Phillipe’s progress into cementing a first team spot was hampered with injuries once again, with tibia problems keeping the playmaker on the sidelines in late 2012.
As the January transfer period came around, the somewhat unexpected rumours of Coutinho’s possible Inter exit divided some Inter fans. Many, myself included, believed he was still in the mix to be a large part of Inter’s future, while others thought he had been given long enough and was too injury prone.
As rumour turned into negotiations, Inter was forced into a sell they never wanted to make. Inter’s coach, Andrea Stramaccioni himself described the sell as “painful” as it would mean “letting go of someone that I’m fond of and who started this project with us”.
Whilst the reasoning behind the sell is another article in itself (stay tuned!), Coutinho made his way to Anfield for £8.5 million.
On February 11, I watched on as Coutinho made his debut for the reds off the bench against West Bromwich Albion. Despite not setting the pitch alight, he looked healthy and confidant in attack, something I felt would see him make some significant contributions to the club in the near future.
Sure enough, in his first start for Liverpool, the reds demolished Swansea 5-0, with Coutinho notching his first Premier League goal in stylish fashion.
Since the debut, Coutinho has amassed five assists and two goals in ten appearances. Beyond the favourable stats, his ability in both carrying and playing the ball has shone with Liverpool.
He has created many-an-opportunity for the Reds with some truly incredible balls played forward. His vision and ability to execute the required pass makes him one of the most promising young playmakers in world football.
Watching his Liverpool performances to date, it is increasingly obvious how cheap Liverpool managed to pick up the rising star, at only 20 years of age. Reds fans must be pleased to see the days of spare-of-the-moment, rash player signings behind them.
The Brendan Rodgers philosophy of making quality value-for-money additions to his team-list will only help the club moving forward.
It has been somewhat bittersweet to watch Phillipe start to reach his potential in the Liverpool number 10 jersey, knowing what kind of a loss it has been to Inter Milan.
However, with an embedded soft spot for the Brazilian, I cannot help but enjoy watching him continually progress as a player, already providing such attractive football in the Premier League.
Hopefully, with a continued clean bill of health, Coutinho can continue developing into the player that Inter Milan saw he could be as a sixteen year old in the Brazilian youth league.