Player to watch next season: Philippe Coutinho at Liverpool
Having had his name bandied about on the continental football circuit for what seems like an eternity, it is somewhat astonishing to learn that Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho is still only 20 years of age.
But despite his tender years, the former Inter Milan playmaker appears well capable of becoming a focal point in Brendan Rodgers’ ushering in of a new era of Anfield success.
Captured for £8.5m in January, Coutinho’s acceptance of the number 10 shirt previously worn by club legends such as John Barnes, Tommy Smith and John Toshack indicated he was not fazed by the daunting pressure that turning out for England’s most successful club brings.
And his self-confidence certainly appears well placed, with the Brazilian already becoming somewhat of a cult hero amongst the Anfield faithful amidst a series of dazzling end-of-season performances.
Despite impressing from the off, getting on the scoresheet on his full Reds debut, it was not until Coutinho moved into a central role where Merseyside supporters truly saw the best of him.
Operating just behind lone frontman Daniel Sturridge away to Newcastle, Coutinho was the Magpies’ chief tormentor, claiming two assists, and featuring heavily in the build-up to another of Liverpool’s six strikes without reply on the day.
In possession of impeccable peripheral vision, Coutinho’s ability to perfectly execute passes others simply cannot see have led to him being dubbed ‘radar boots’ in some circles.
His record of seven top-flight assists in just 13 Reds appearances suggest the nickname is warranted.
But whilst Coutinho has already proven an effective puppeteer in terms of making Liverpool tick and laying on chances for other players, his own eye for goal looks razor sharp too.
The Brazilian international demonstrated exquisite technique when notching a 25-yard winner over QPR on the final day of the season, taking his tally to three seasonal strikes since his mid-season arrival, and further enhancing his credentials as an essential Fantasy Football selection in the coming season.
With Rodgers now in no doubt as to his best position, and Coutinho already effortlessly transitioning into English football, the tricky midfielder looks set to offer plenty more next season and beyond.
Indeed, he will prove integral to Liverpool’s pursuit of a top-four finish next term, which they are 2/1 to achieve.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.