There is an excellent excerpt from Steven Gerrard’s autobiography in 2015, the same year he left Liverpool, where the current Aston Villa manager speaks fondly of Philippe Coutinho and their days together at Anfield.
Gerrard returns to 2014, right in the middle of Luis Suarez preparing to leave for Barcelona, ââand the Uruguayan gives Gerrard a request about the Brazilian, who arrived in Merseyside in 2013.
“Make sure you take care of him [Coutinho]”Suarez told the former Reds captain.” He’s a good boy. “Suarez’s plea was not only to take care of Coutinho on the pitch, but also off. He wanted Gerrard to be on the pitch. assures him that he feels comfortable away from home as every South America, one way or another, often grapples with cultural change. In England, even more so.
Gerrard took Suarez’s request to heart and kept it, texting and talking to Coutinho, making sure he was happy in his new surroundings. Coutinho’s years at Liverpool are filled with fond memories, including several individual accolades. He scored 54 goals in 201 appearances, becoming the league’s most scoring Brazilian (41 goals) until the end of 2018, when his friend Roberto Firmino passed him in a 5-1 win over Arsenal. He was nicknamed “The Magician” because of his ability to pull something out of nothing, and what he did often.
The collective titles, however, did not come and that was a major reason for the Brazilian’s decision to leave and join Barcelona – he wanted silverware. Ironically enough, this search for titles came at a price, which cost it to deliver in the same way.
His talents are undeniable and at 29, having won titles in four nations, including the Copa America with Brazil and the Champions League with Bayern Munich, Coutinho still has a lot to offer. The point is, he needs three things: discipline, consistency, and praise. I spoke to Coutinho in 2020 when he was on loan at Bayern and one thing that has become very clear is that he is an optimist with a brilliant disposition, no matter what. He has a tattoo on his arm (done when he was in Liverpool) that says: “Never stop dreaming, ” and that feeling never went away.
âI am focused on making my dreams come true and I never look back,â he told me at the time. A half-full glass is always on her mind.
So here we are again with Coutinho’s friend. It was apparently a phone call between Gerrard and Coutinho that sparked the process of moving to Villa Park. It’s no surprise that Gerrard’s influence dictates the narrative.
On Thursday, the manager was silent on the possibility of bringing the Brazilian via a loan into the January transfer window. “If you are looking to link to speculation or catch up with me, you are gone for a long afternoon,” he told a reporter. But on Friday Barcelona and Aston Villa struck a deal.
Barcelona are desperate to ease their financial accounts in order to register players (Ferran Torres) and alleviate some of the debt they have accumulated. From a contractual standpoint, this is my biggest worry about the move. I want to make sure that the deal for Coutinho is first and foremost suitable for Aston Villa and that is why a loan with option to buy makes so much sense.
There are also other factors such as other Villa needs. The club are determined to improve defensively after the departure of Axel Tuanzebe (Napoli) and the main absences due to the Africa Cup of Nations (Trezeguet, Bertrand TraorÃ©) and injuries (Marvelous Nakamba, Leon Bailey), who are in fact a more important reason for the arrival of the Brazilian.
There’s also the fact that Coutinho, whether Villa fans like to admit it or not, brings nuances of what Jack Grealish used to offer. They are creators, who love the ball at their feet, often waiting for the opponent to make his move before disappearing as if by magic.
âOne of my favorites to watch is Coutinho because he always has that one, you know, where he goes left and falls like a little shimmy, which I love to do myself,â Grealish said. last summer at the BBC, before heading to Man City.
The similarities are there, and maybe the same personality attributes, and that’s why Luis Suarez said those words to Gerrard a long time ago. When you have a player like Coutinho, the only way to get the most out of him is to nurture his attributes and make him a main dish on your menu. It doesn’t have to be the only dish, but it has to be a main course. That’s why he hasn’t been successful recently. Because he’s been a part-time player, contributor, assistant as opposed to magician. It has even been the case for Brazil, as it hasn’t even started for them since October 2020.
But Villa, a former European champion, can hopefully rekindle the fire. It’s a gamble, but it’s worth taking. There is no doubt that Aston Villa are a club in transition with high goals but it is a long and arduous road as Gerrard’s side know the difficult tasks that need to be accomplished to reach a European place. But what the club offers Philippe Coutinho is the promise of ambition, desire, playing time and the opportunity to dream big.
Just like it’s tattooed on the Brazilian’s arm.