“I have been a big admirer of Coutinho and he can be a very important player for Liverpool and Brazil.”
“There will be a lot of expectation on him with Liverpool fighting to get back into the Champions League, but I know he can handle it.
“One great player doesn’t make a team, but you can build a team around one great player, and I believe he can be that player.” – Kaka (August 2015)
Phillippe Coutinho produced one of the standout moments of the opening week of the Premier League with his audacious strike that earned Liverpool all three points away to Stoke City and immediately increased expectations.
He has grown in stature the past three seasons and, despite the attention on Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, the little Brazilian has been a key factor.
The departure of Sterling and Gerrard meant Liverpool was in need of a new hero, and the arrival of Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke provided the narrative ahead of the game and expectations focused on them.
Benteke started, laboured with the few punts that came his way, and was often lost in no man’s land. Firmino came on late with the Stoke defence giving him a piece of their hard tackles to welcome him. It was “the little magician” who stepped up.
Coutinho received a pass from the impressive teenager, Joe Gomez, swivelled past Steve Sidwell, hit an unstoppable shot, and immediately catapulted himself rightfully into the vacuum.
Liverpool needed a new hero, a new leader, and a new rallying point. No one captures it better than Kaka, quoted above, who posited that, “One great player doesn’t make a team, but you can build a team around one great player, and I believe he can be that player.”
Coutinho definitely looks like he’s ready to take on the mantle as Liverpool’s new leader, despite the appointment of James Milner as vice-captain and Jordan Henderson as captain.
I was first captivated with his qualities in 2009 when he inspired the Brazil Under-17 squad that won the 2009 South American Under-17 Football Championship, scoring three goals. So I looked out for him when he trained with Brazil ahead of the Fifa Under-17 World Cup and I was looking forward to watching them but fell ill a day before the tournament and ended up in Hospital in Johannesburg throughout the tournament. So I didn’t get to watch as Brazil crashed out early.
However, I got a chance two years later when he starred alongside Neymar and Oscar for Brazil at the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Columbia.
When Liverpool signed him in 2013, along with Daniel Sturridge, I was very excited and he produced some great moments in that half-season. Come 2013/14, as Liverpool pulled off a surprise title charge, the little Brazilian’s goals at home to Manchester City set the tone for the final onslaught.
I must say I was quite disappointed when Former Brazilian coach, Luis Felipe Scolari, announced his World Cup squad without Coutinho. I thought it was a big mistake and I said so in the build up to the tournament, but most people felt I was sentimental.
We never know what would have happened but, as it turned out, Neymar got injured and Brazil needed someone to ignite the team. For all the hype around the Chelsea duo, Oscar and Willian, and even the youngster William, the Selecao lacked the cutting edge as Germany tore them to shreds.
Last season, Coutinho produced some spectacular strikes for Liverpool and his goal against Stoke City was spectacular, coming after an earlier attempt that had gone so high you’d think he was playing rugby and aiming for a drop kick.
Coutinho’s pressing is the key to his value to the team. His magical spins when faced with a sea of defender; his single-mindedness; coolness under pressure; and ability to thread a through ball like Zico, makes him the reincarnation of the famous Brazilian number 10.
He is the archetypal Brazilian number 10 playmaker, and can play as second striker or on the wings and can become the centre of Liverpool’s play.
He is back in the mix with Brazil as Dunga attempts to re-build. Though they crashed out at the Copa in Chile, Coutinho and new Liverpool teammate Roberto Firmino will become integral to their future and they have a chance to build greater understanding playing together and tormenting Premier League defences.
Liverpool take on Bournemouth at Anfield and all eyes will be on the little magician as the “Kop” faithful will hope he steals the show.