Brendan Rodgers will be hoping his second, and final, signing of the January transfer can have as much impact as the first. While Daniel Sturridge has slotted in seamlessly as the central striker and is already banging in the goals, Philippe Coutinho is yet to feature for the Reds following his arrival from Serie A club Inter.
The 20-year-old signed on a long-term contract Anfield for a fee in the region of £8.5m and has already been the subject of plenty praise from his new manager. After beating off a late challenge from Southampton for the young Brazilian, Rodgers explained just why he splashed the cash:
“He’s a wonderful talent and a great technician, he’s got pace, strength, power. Again, I think he’s flexible. He can play in the midfield in that zone, or he can play off the sides. He’s a very exciting young player – his profile fits into the model of our work here. For a young player of 20, he’s actually got a lot of experience. He’s played 100-odd games and at the very highest level. He’s fantastic in the one v one, he’s great at taking players on, works hard and he’s got a goal in him…He can come in straight away because he’s got the game.”
A product of the Vasco da Gama youth system, Coutinho was purchased by Serie A outfit Inter as a 16-year-old. He stayed in his native country for another two years, however, producing a goal and a pair of assists from 19 first-team appearances before making his way to Italy. Arriving at the San Siro in the summer of 2010, the youngster was heralded as “the future of Inter” but was handed just 12 starts in a season-and-a-half, producing two goals and a pair of assists before making his way on loan to Spanish side Espanyol.
Coutinho’s time in La Liga was more successful. Playing under the current Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino, he grabbed five goals and an assist from a total of 16 appearances last term before returning to Inter. Once again, his game time was somewhat curtailed at the Italian club – Coutinho featured 10 times in the league this season, scoring once, with only three appearances arriving via the starting XI. He has turned out for the Brazil U17 and U20 sides on a total of 15 occasions, scoring six times, and has also featured for the senior side once, back in 2010 in a friendly against Iran.
It’s fair to say that, so far, Rodgers’ acquisition policy has been a bit hit and miss for Liverpool. Joe Allen started well but has drifted out the first-team in recent weeks, Fabio Borini has failed to make any impact upon his recent return from injury, while Oussama Assaidi has played a grand total of 57 minutes in the Premier League since joining the club last summer.
After a few months in charge on Merseyside, Rodgers now has a better idea of what’s required within the first-team set-up, though. Sturridge’s arrival has already afforded more leeway up front, with a 4-2-3-1 formation offering an alternative to a 4-3-3. It may well be that Coutinho could find a place on the left of the former formation, with Suarez tucked in behind Sturridge in a central berth and Raheem Sterling on the right – affording Liverpool pace and trickery aplenty up top, with perhaps current regular Stewart Downing eased out the picture, although Downing is currently keeping Sterling out of the picture after showing a something close to form.
The new boy has had a handful of niggling muscle injuries over the past couple of seasons, however, and was resultantly ruled out of Sunday’s game at City. Short-term, then, it may well be that he’s gradually introduced to the first-team fold as Rodgers affords him the time to become accustomed to the demands of the Premier League. Once fully fit, though, Coutinho looks likely to offer Fantasy managers a real mid-price option at £5.3m.