“He is the future of Inter”
Even the Nerazzurri President, Massimo Moratti could not hide his admiration for the little schemer.
It is all there.
An angelic titter; fuchsia boots, the vintage scouse curls of black hair draping over a friendly face, dancing Samba across the Anfield turf to the beat of a Surdo drum in his head. Philippe Coutinho has it all. He is the next Kaka, the next Ronaldinho, the next Rivaldo.....or an Italian supercar, says Inter Milan centre half and former teammate, Juan Jesus. “For me, he is a phenomenon. He is like a Ferrari. When he is dribbling with the ball at his feet, you just can’t catch up to him,” the Brazilian once enthused.
As for what Coutinho thinks of himself, he is a little more humble: “I’m just Coutinho, a kid who's getting better. Ronaldinho is an extra-terrestrial who’s won everything. I’d be happy to achieve half of his success.”
But with the lissom of a Turkish belly dancer and the plumage of an Azure Jay, ‘Philipinho’ carries a certain flounce of flamboyance.
Being Brazilian carries its own ruthless weight of pressure and the air of bluster that blows with him is no different. We’ve always known Lucas offers more splice than Samba, maybe something we are not inured from the seleção, but Coutinho offers something different. Rather than breaking up opposition attacks, what are we to expect from Coutinho? Defence splitting passes that would make Zico stare in wonder? Rhythmical stepovers to rival the feet of Robinho? Possibly both. When are we to expect these? Next week, month, year? A ten minute cameo against West Brom and an hour’s saunter versus Swansea offered glimpses of a promising future Liverpool caper, but is by no means enough to judge a 20 year old. He seemed to need that time of panache to declare he is more Didi than Dunga. Those 70 minutes were a mere peek through a keyhole.
Though the signs are clear.
He may have missed his first half effort but at least he was in the right place to miss it after an intelligent shuffle inside to support Daniel Sturridge on his mazy adventure. Dwight Tiendalli’s dolorous afternoon against the obstinacy of Coutinho reached its nadir just 18 seconds into the second half. The Brazilian flitted from him into oceans of space and once Luis Suarez slid the little man through, there seemed to be no doubt over the outcome. A determined drive at Gary Monk, steeped in confidence, before unleashing an unstoppable drive which eventually trundled into the net via a hand from Michel Vorm – a full debut goal and just reward for an ritzy display.
His cheeky grins transcended into his footwork as he nearly added his second of the afternoon with a neat Cruyff flick; bright movement again, drifting in from the left flank all the while quashing doubts that such a small figure could ever possibly succeed amongst the physicality of the Premier League. Something his idol, Ricardo Quaresma, failed to conquer
Those of you who have drooled over the YouTube videos or spent countless dreary hours on Football Manager, which is now the world’s greatest scouting tool, will say Philippe Coutinho is ‘boss’. Well, more aptly, becomes ‘boss’.
Every pass, run, jump, shout, shot, head, touch and strand of hair will be forensically examined time and time again by the Anfield faithful. Every florid flick must find its intended recipient. Each pass to arrive safely at the feet of a red shirt. If anyone should recognise that quick judgement causes short-sightedness when it comes to Brazilians, it is Liverpool fans.
There can be no doubting the youngster’s attitude – he takes his profession seriously. He has sat and analysed each of his performances matches and training sessions with his father and two older lawyer brothers. When questioned why does not go out drinking and enjoying the female company, he smiles and with a twinkle in his eye, answers: “My family is the foundation of everything in my life. I'm a very quiet person. And I have to be, right? My family is always on my ass!”
Coutinho’s arrival at Anfield continues his recent trend and impressive stat of playing under young managers. His six month loan spell at Espanyol was spent under now Southampton boss and 40 year old, Mauricio Pochettino, before returning to Inter Milan to play under current coach, Andrea Stramaccioni, aged 37. Brendan Rodgers ticked over to 40 just last month.
Blessed with pace, technical skill and an acquainted personality, Coutinho has the potential to make it anywhere, but at Liverpool, Rodgers has handed him a licence to thrill. It is now down to him to prove that after a roseate start to life at Anfield, it is not all downhill. After all, he was destined to be the man to lead Inter’s future.
We will see.