Over the coming week, Philippe Coutinho is highly likely to become the fifth Brazilian to play for Liverpool. He’ll be the first one to conform to the stereotype, though.
The 20-year-old midfielder’s compatriot predecessors didn’t exactly fit the mould that many expect of players from the nation that has won a record five World Cups.
In Fabio Aurelio, Lucas Leiva, Diego Cavalieri and Alexander Doni, the Reds recruited four very un-Brazilian Brazilians.
The latter pair were backup goalkeepers only there to provide quiet competition to Pepe Reina, whilst although the left-sided Aurelio―who became the first Brazilian to play for the Reds when he signed on a free transfer from Valencia in 2006―was often a pleasure to watch with a football at his feet and did have his stylish moments, he was disappointingly prone to injury and often left a feeling of a wasted talent.
Of the quartet it is of course 2010/11’s Liverpool Player of the Season, Lucas, who has proven to be the most successful, but his brand of defensive midfield ruggedness is hardly what you associate with the land which brought us the thrill-a-minute talents of the likes of Garrincha, Pele, Jairzinho, Socrates, Zico, Romario, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Neymar.
Obviously this piece isn’t designed to compare Liverpool’s newest recruit with any of those players―the poor kid would be on to a loser straight away if it was―but the glimpses that Reds fans have had of their new charge during his time with Inter Milan or a largely successful loan spell at Espanyol will at least encourage them to think that this is a player who can genuinely excite. He might just possess the quality to get the crowd on their feet.
In terms of the team he is joining, it is his fellow South American Luis Suarez who is, of course, the king of getting the Anfield regulars to rise to the tips of their toes, but Coutinho looks to be able to bring something different to his team’s attack whatever angle he approaches goal from.
Liverpool’s new No. 10 has spoken of his determination to “play near the box” for his new club (LiverpoolFC.com), and supporters of that club will no doubt be delighted to hear that, especially given that a little more haste and a little less rashness have often been needed at Anfield over the past few seasons.
As the Brendan Rodgers revolution continues apace at Liverpool, it is obvious that there will be players who fall by the wayside along the way.
Some already have, of course, and the key element about virtually all of them is that they frequently failed to use the ball intelligently in the final third.
With Coutinho the Reds boss will hope that that will change over time, and whilst we have already used these pages to discuss just where the Brazilian will fit into the Liverpool XI, the influence he could have on the team could transcend a mere position on the field.
Like so many of his new teammates Coutinho is both young and raw, and so a degree of patience has to come with his signing.
He isn’t going to come into the team and immediately take the Premier League by storm, but Liverpool’s relatively kind fixture list from now until the end of their campaign certainly allows him to ease into the English game somewhat gently. He shouldn’t be parachuted into the team and immediately placed under pressure.
Over time, then, the £8.5 million outlay might prove to be a masterful piece of business from Rodgers and the Liverpool owners―although they haven’t been given any credit for the generally pleasing January transfer window―but for now he should just be allowed to settle in.
As Liverpool’s first “properly Brazilian” Brazilian, Coutinho does bring an awful lot of excitement and expectation to the club, but all of that can come later.
He needs to settle into his new life as the Reds’ great entertainer first.
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