Philippe Coutinho copies the Liverpool greats and finds an extra gear

Believe it or not, there was a point at which some Liverpool fans were not too upset by rumours linking Philippe Coutinho with a move away from the club.

I was one of them.

The 24-year-old is a footballer of unbelievable quality, but he had reached a stage where he was flattering to deceive a little too often, with questions being asked about his overall influence.

He found himself on the periphery of a number of matches, some of which were at the very start of this season – Arsenal and Burnley – and his endless shooting sometimes left you tearing your hair out.

All of a sudden, however, Coutinho has gone up an enormous gear, and we are witnessing the evolution of him from talented youngster to world-class footballer.

In the last month or so, the former Inter Milan forward has been stunning to watch – perhaps the most impressive run of form from any Liverpool player since Luis Suarez tore the Premier League to shreds in 2013/14.

His performances against the likes of West Brom, Crystal Palace and Watford have been extraordinary, and the key to it have been an added substance to his play. Even when he has underperformed, as he did for 45 minutes at the Emirates, he still left the pitch having scored two goals, including one memorable free-kick.

We have always known about the genius Coutinho has at his disposal, but he is now showcasing it consistently, and scoring and assisting at a rapid rate.

The Brazilian already has six goals and six assists to his name this season, and at one point during the first-half against Watford on Sunday, he was averaging one every 71 minutes in 2016/17, which is astonishing.

The truly great players have a point in their career at which they suddenly realise their potential – when they finally become aware that they are best player on the pitch, and act on it.

Steven Gerrard did it in 2003/04, when he was genuinely a Man of the Match contender in every game, having been a little inconsistent in the years before that. He had been given the captaincy by Gerard Houllier that season, a year after being dropped by the Frenchman, and the legendary midfielder never looked back.

Suarez exploded in 2012/13 – people tend to forget he scored 30 goals in 44 appearances that season – after a solid start to life on Merseyside, while Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen were unpredictable young prodigies who became ruthlessly brilliant in the years that followed.

Non-Liverpool greats such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar could all identify a point at which they went from promising to unstoppable – some point in their early 20s.

Whether Coutinho will ever reach the heights of these wonderful footballers remains to be seen – he probably won’t – but right now, he is the best player in the Premier League. While Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Adam Lallana have all been fantastic in their own right, the silky South American is the one who has really made Liverpool tick.

Opposing sides are now terrified of what he can do them, which simultaneously creates space for others on the pitch, and his eye for the spectacular makes him a genuine match-winner.

Coutinho is approaching four years as a Reds player, and he is increasingly enhancing his reputation as one of their best foreign signings of all time. Buying him from Inter for just £8.5million was a remarkable piece of business, in hindsight.

He has been very good for most of that time, winning two Liverpool Player of the Year awards, but he is absolutely exceptional now.

As each match passes, the more we dream about our mighty Reds winning a first ever Premier League title. While Jürgen Klopp’s influence, the team ethic and several other players are undoubtedly key, Coutinho is the man who can really inspire Liverpool to glory.

At 24, he is about to enter the peak years of his career, which should fill Reds supporters with enormous amounts of happiness.

Let’s just hope he ignores interest from those pesky Spanish clubs for the foreseeable future.

Written by @HenryJackson87

Leave a reply on this article, Reds!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s