Pending a work permit, Philippe Coutinho will become Liverpool’s second signing of the 2013 January transfer window, but more importantly he’ll become Liverpool’s 5th ever Brazilian player and only the third outfield player to wear the famous red shirt.
|Early days at Vasco da Gama|
The signing of Coutinho has excited many Liverpool fans, but it has also been met with the usual scepticism from some quarters. This could be because there isn’t much to go off in terms of past performance, as he has been in and out of the Internazionale side, or due to the fact that he doesn’t seem to have played a full season at any of his clubs.
He did, however, spend half a season on loan at Espanyol in the latter part of the 2011/12 campaign, and this could be the period of time we can use as a more accurate judgement of his performances. He managed one assist and scored five goals in the sixteen games he played for the club, including this well taken long range effort against Racing Santander.
Coutinho was a youth player at Vasco da Gama in his home town of Rio de Janeiro, and was spotted at an early age by the scouts of Internazionale of Italy. He was 16 at the time so was unable to move to Europe until his 18th birthday, due to European laws which don’t allow South Americans to work on the continent until they turn 18. This didn’t deter Inter, as they had seen something special in this exciting attacking talent from the home of the beautiful game, so they made Vasco an offer of 4 million Euros which would mean he was their player, but could stay on loan at Vasco for the two years until he turned 18.
At Vasco he helped his team achieve promotion from Serie B in 2009, meaning that he would play his final games at the club in the Brazilian top flight before moving to Inter. During this time he also played for Brazil in the South American under 17 Championships, where he helped his side win the competition with three goals in the tournament, including one in the final against Argentina.
The next year he played a handful of games alongside the experienced journeyman striker Dodo, getting two assists and scoring one goal for the team in the 2010 Brazilian Serie A season. This was on top of the significant contribution he made for the team in the Carioca state championship, earlier that year.
Star of the Future – Arrival at Inter
Having developed his game to become one of the most exciting attacking prospects in Brazilian football, there was much excitement around the football world ahead of Philippe’s move to Europe. He completed his move to Inter in July of 2010, with the Inter president Massimo Moratti, and the then manager Rafa Benitez singing the praises of the player and stating how he would become an important part of the club’s future.
“He is a young player with many qualities who may be the club’s future. We expect him to do very well for us.” Rafa Benitez
“Coutinho is a great addition to the squad. He is a phenomenal player.”
Some of his peers at his new club gave a more in depth analysis of their new team mate, with Wesley Sneijder and fellow Brazilian Maicon stating their admiration for the player.
“He is a very good player, a very technical, skilful player. He is for sure a player for the future, and it’s hard to use him every week because he is still a youngster and he has to get used to it. But with his qualities he will make it; he will make it for sure.” Wesley Sneijder
“I knew him from back in Brazil when he played for Vasco da Gama and he has already demonstrated his character and his personality. He is very impressive and that hasn’t changed from being here with us. He will become a great footballer.” Maicon
After this high praise the world of football was his for the taking. However, after a spate of starts early in the 2010/11 season, which included most of the games in the Champions League group stages, his appearances in the Inter first team became sporadic, and his familiar role in the side became that of substitute. Whilst his admirers could see that the potential and the raw talent was obviously there, there was just something missing in his game.
Under 20 World Cup Winner
These missing parts came together to some extent during Brazil’s impressive showing in the 2011 Under 20 World Cup. As part of this triumphant and stylish Brazil side, he re-affirmed his place as one of the up and coming stars of Brazillian football with some impressive displays. He managed to score three goals in the competition including two in the game shown below against Panama. Watch out for the neat bit of skill on the left to help set up the first goal.
|In action for Espanyol|
What can Liverpool Expect from Coutinho?
Coutinho is a creative attacking player who also has typically Brazilian strengths such as dribbling, trickery, quick feet, good technique, and the tendency to perform the unexpected. He likes to play in the attacking midfield positions where he can drop into space to create chances for others, or arrive in the box to attempt a shot should the opportunity arise.
His versatility will be part of the reason Brendan Rodgers has been attracted to the player, but his preferred position would probably be as an inside left attacking playmaker, where he can cut inside and threaten with his long shots, or send through one of his attacking team mates.
Coutinho will join Liverpool at the end of the 2013 January transfer window, should his work permit be accepted.