Pending a few technicalities, Inter Milan’s Philippe Coutinho is set to become the next young, talented attacker to join Liverpool since the start of the Brendan Rodgers era.
As the BBC’s Ben Smith notes, the Reds are set to complete an £8.5 million deal to bring the 20-year-old Brazilian to Anfield, with only a physical and a work visa standing in the way of the move becoming official.
Coutinho has dealt with injuries this season and this, in addition to his youth, has contributed to sparse playing time with Inter. He has started just three Serie A matches while coming on seven times as a substitute.
He has just one goal this season, but had five goals and an assist in 16 La Liga fixtures while on loan with Espanyol this past season.
During his brief time in top-flight football, Coutinho has proved to be an exciting talent with the ability to attack from the center or either wing. When his move to Liverpool is completed, he will join Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Fabio Borini in the Reds' stable of talented young attackers.
Rodgers’ strategy of stockpiling creative players before they hit the prime of their careers is admirable, and it is already paying dividends. Liverpool has steadily improved throughout the season and now sits seventh in the table.
But too much youth can cause problems for teams, and Rodgers needs to ensure that his squad remains balanced with experienced players in prominent roles.
He has a pair of veteran centre-backs in Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, while Steven Gerrard has seen it all both on the club and international stages. However, he has little depth behind these players and an injury to one of them could be catastrophic.
As Sky Sports notes, Rodgers has not ruled out adding another player before the transfer window closes on January 31. If he is able to make another signing, he would be wise to bring on another experienced player.
There is no doubt that signing Coutinho was a smart move. Any time a talent like the 20-year-old is available for a modest fee, it is a wise move to give him a chance.
Overall, Rodgers should be lauded for his moves in the transfer market since taking over at Anfield. Players like Sturridge, Coutinho and Joe Allen have the talent to long and productive careers with the Reds.
But for now, the puzzle is not complete.
These young talents need veteran leadership, and this is an area where Liverpool is lacking. This was painfully evident in the club’s shocking FA Cup loss to Oldham that saw Agger left out of the lineup and Gerrard on the bench to start the match.
While bringing in creative attackers with exciting potential has the club moving in the right direction, the glory days of competing for league titles will not return until Rodgers strikes a proper balance with his team. For that, Reds supporters will likely be left waiting until at least next season.
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