His kind words about the Reds’ newest signing didn’t translate to his team being kind to Liverpool on the pitch at the weekend, but Mauricio Pochettino’s praise for Philippe Coutinho was hard to ignore.
Southampton boss Pochettino managed Coutinho during the Brazilian’s loan spell at Espanyol last season, and although comparing the 20-year-old’s talents to those of Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho (via BBC) might be more than a little premature at the moment, it is clear to see that the youngster has quality.
It is important not to hype him up too much, of course, but the Anfield fans have certainly taken to Coutinho and feel that he can offer Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool something that they’ve been missing for the majority of the season.
Here are some reasons why the fans will go nuts for the Brazilian.
With Luis Suarez ahead of him and Lucas Leiva behind, Coutinho has talents from his continent around him that he can learn from both on and off the pitch.
Lucas has already told of how he will act as a father figure for Coutinho as the former Inter Milan man looks to adapt to Liverpool life (via the official Liverpool website), and despite being only six years older than him the holding midfielder’s presence at Anfield will clearly be key for the new arrival to settle in.
Having Suarez around will help too, and with Liverpool’s top scorer already showing signs of linking up with Coutinho, theirs is a partnership that could flourish in the years to come.
Two goals in four Premier League starts identify Coutinho as a welcome goalscoring threat in this Liverpool side, and keeping up this ratio is sure to be key as the Brazilian seeks to carve out a successful career in England.
Having been on the fringes of things at Inter Milan, he now has a real chance to become a key man at another world-renowned club, and adding more and more goals to his game will only ensure that he gets more and more fans among the Liverpool support.
The more he finds the net, the increasingly important he becomes.
The No. 10 shirt, the skillful, jinking runs and a flair for the spectacular have all reminded Liverpool fans of a former favourite and a player who Coutinho can look to emulate.
Champions League winner Luis Garcia proved to be one of Rafael Benitez’s finest signings, with the stylish midfielder/forward scoring vital goals on the club’s remarkable run to Istanbul in 2005, and providing an element of fantasy to a Liverpool side who weren’t blessed with the greatest talent.
Coutinho has got big shoes to fill, but the similarities are there.
Other than Pochettino, Premier League managers won’t know an awful lot about Coutinho, and the Brazilian can take advantage of that.
As defenders are keeping an eye on the likes of Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Coutinho can pop up in spaces that those defenders weren’t expecting to see him in and take advantage of the spaces provided for him by his talented teammates.
He’s already shown this with his goal against Swansea and the quality he showed in providing assists for both Stewart Downing and Suarez in the 4-0 win at Wigan; Coutinho maintaining that element of surprise going into next season could be crucial in just how successful he and Liverpool are.
Adapting to the physicality of the Premier League is always a key element to a foreign player shining in England―as we are so often told―and although Coutinho may only be slight and small in frame, he has shown a willingness to stand up and be counted already.
It could be argued that playing games against footballing sides such as Swansea, Wigan, Tottenham and Southampton was the perfect way for Coutinho to ease into Premier League life, but with the man himself admitting that he’s not afraid of the physical challenge (via Sky Sports), he looks well-suited to enjoy a long and successful career at Anfield.
Liverpool fans can only hope that Pochettino’s praise comes true.