“You would just pay money to watch that kid. He is a great role model for lots of technical players in this country, young British players that for maybe many years would have been discarded because they were technically good but not as big a stature.
“He will become world class in the next couple of years. Luis Suarez was at a level then he played in this team and grew and grew with the model and went into the world-class bracket and I can see Coutinho falling in the same sort of way.
“He might not be as prolific as Suarez was but he is certainly on the way to that. He is a wonderful, wonderful player. Signing a new deal shows he is really committed to Liverpool and his development.”
It may have been the hype of getting through to the next round of the FA Cup after a last gasp swing, or perhaps the relief that Liverpool’s fixture schedule would not be further hindered by another half hour of action at the Macron Stadium against Bolton, but Brendan Rodgers compared match-winner Philippe Coutinho to Luis Suarez…
Both are South American, both are good on the ball and both have worn the red shirt of Liverpool, but the link between the two isn’t exactly the strongest. Rodgers could be right on the world-class aspect though, with his silky playmaker getting better and better as the months progress. Here are FIVE reasons he could make the next leap…
Rodgers challenged Coutinho to get more goals amid the new contract talk, and how did the Brazilian respond? With a pearler, that’s how. There may have been a slight deflection, but the way he drifted into the space and the technique he showed to open his body for the curling effort was impressive, and that’s before the fact it was an injury time winner to avoid extra-time ahead of the Merseyside derby is taken into account! Through his career the 22-year-old has not exactly been prolific. He scores big goals, but is not a big scorer of goals… (massive efforts against Fulham and Manchester City last season spring to mind, while the winner at QPR earlier in the current campaign could yet prove to be a vital one). His most effective spell in front of goal came during a brief stint at Espanyol, where the Brazilian notched five goals in 16 games, which is far from amazing. However, the potential is clearly there, and as he edges out of the ‘promising youngster’ bracket, it would be no surprise to see the net bulging more regularly.
Coutinho looked poor for much of the opening months of the season. Fans were critical, his role in Rodgers’ XI was far from guaranteed and goals and assists were both missing from his game. Although the finger was pointed at him, the static options ahead of him did little to aid his woes, with Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert not exactly the players to threaten ‘in behind’.
However, the emergence of Raheem Sterling as Rodgers’ striker of choice in recent weeks has coincided with a upsurge in Coutinho’s performances, with the England star adept at making the sort of runs the pass-master is so suited to picking out. And things could yet get better with Daniel Sturridge back involved, with the injury-hit striker’s pace a threat off the last man.
It was pretty clear during the Bolton game that Coutinho is now the epicentre of Liverpool’s attacking game. Almost every break went through the trickster, whose quick feat and ability to beat his man opened up space time after time, particularly during the first half.
With a role as the hub of a team with impressive players around him, Coutinho is sure to grow in confidence. A position in a more central berth is also better suited to the starlet, with a the wing position he has frequently occupied in his two years at Anfield not an area of the pitch that his skills can be fully utilised.
Gerrard’s exit may be a big blow for Liverpool as a whole, but his move away to LA Galaxy – and semi-retirement – opens up opportunities for those in the Reds’ squad. Jordan Henderson, as vice-captain, looks likely to take the armband, but the ex-Sunderland star is not exactly a ‘grab the game by the scruff of the neck’ type player, so the responsibility of making things happen will fall to another… potentially Coutinho.
In a role in behind the striker(s), the 22-year-old will be the creative fulcrum of the side, which may be the responsibility needed to kick him on to the next level.
Hailing him as a “little magician”, it’s clear to see that Rodgers truly appreciates Coutinho. Some manager’s would be reluctant to rely on a flair player in a key role, preferring industry and strength, but the Northern Irishman’s favoured style of quick passing and creativity in the final third lends itself to the South American. So he may be treated with a little more patience.