Profile of Philippe Coutinho

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Phillippe Coutinho became the fifth player of Brazilian birth to sign for Liverpool Football Club when he finalised a contract described as long-term on the penultimate day of the January 2013 transfer-window. Unlike Daniel Sturridge, whose arrival in the same window had been rumoured for some time, midfielder Coutinho’s signing was more of a surprise as he was still only in the early stages of his professional career with barely a century of first-team matches behind him for three different clubs prior to his arrival in England. Coutinho was born in Brazil’s second-largest city, Rio de Janeiro, and joined the youth system of one of that city’s most prominent clubs, Vasco da Gama. His potential was quickly spotted and Italian club Internazionale made a successful bid for him in 2008 when Coutinho was still only 16-years-old. Inter did, however, allow him to remain with Vasco until he had passed his eighteenth birthday in the middle of 2010, at which point he relocated to Europe. The youngster’s arrival in Italy coincided with that of Rafael Benítez, who was appointed as Inter Milan’s head coach. Both Benítez and Inter’s long-standing president, Massimo Moratti, were enthusiastic about Coutinho joining their club but a quotation attributed to them that “Coutinho is the future of Inter” possibly placed unnecessary and unfair pressure on the teenager. Initially anyway, things went reasonably well for the young Brazilian and he made his debut for the European champions as a second-half substitute for Wesley Sneijder during the Super Cup final against Europa League winners Atletico Madrid in Monaco. Inter were in the end comfortably defeated by the Spanish club. 

Coutinho only appeared in eleven of Inter’s 38 Serie A matches in 2010/11 as the Nerazzurri finished runners-up to their city rivals AC Milan; and he had only played in a handful of matches by the halfway point of the following season when his career changed direction with a loan move to Espanyol in Spain. The change of scenery worked well for him as he scored five times in 16 La Liga matches in helping the Barcelona club to move clear of the threat of relegation. At the end of a fairly successful loan-spell Coutinho returned to Italy but again had difficulty holding down a regular place in Inter’s first team even though he had represented his country at the South American Under-17 championships in Chile in 2009 before making his first appearance for Brazil’s senior team against Iran the following year.

Phillippe Coutinho arrives in English football with considerable expectation upon his young shoulders, possibly unfair expectation for a man who had, at the time of signing his first Liverpool contract, yet to play in more than a few dozen club matches since his first competitive appearance for Vasco da Gama in 2009. He takes over the number ten shirt vacated by Joe Cole. Both men have been described as “attacking midfielders” and it is to be hoped that Coutinho will have rather more success in that role than his predecessor ever did as a Liverpool player. Brendan Rodgers is excited by Coutinho's potential: "I love players who can make the difference at the top end. I've known about him since he was 15 years of age and watched him come through for Brazil. It was a real coup for us because Inter Milan didn't want to sell him, but when we thought he could become available we did everything we could to get him in. Thankfully he's chosen to come to Liverpool. He's a wonderful talent and a great technician, he's got pace, strength and power. He's flexible - he can play in midfield or off the sides. He's a really exciting player and another great product to come into the league. I'm really looking forward to developing him and seeing him work. I got a good insight into him last year when he was at Espanyol, he's a real talent and a good, young, exciting player - but also a real good professional and that's key as well."

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