What now for Coutinho?
LONDON — The three small words have been asked with increasing regularity during a flying start to the season: who needs Coutinho?
They were first said after Liverpool blitzed Hoffenheim to march into the Champions League group stages then repeated four days later when Arsenal’s players had their heads scrambled by a display of raw pace and aggression.
Even during the international break the question has been asked with fans latching onto Ben Woodburn’s magical goal for Wales; Woodburn is a work in a progress but his raw talent and ability to do things out of the norm are exciting Liverpool supporters.
So who needs Philippe Coutinho? Well, Liverpool do. It will have encouraged Jurgen Klopp how his team put the noise around the Brazilian’s future aside to secure their initial target of qualifying for the Champions League and building a solid platform in the Premier League without last year’s star man.
He hasn’t been missed in the formative weeks of this campaign and, with that in mind, it has been impossible not to think back to the summer of 2013 when the club were last at loggerheads with a star man who was intent on leaving.
Liverpool began that Premier League campaign with three consecutive 1-0 wins; Luis Suarez, the subject of persistent interest and failed bids from Arsenal, watched them all from the sidelines as he served the remainder of a 10-game suspension for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
The thing is, though, that Suarez was always going to be needed again and he returned to have a season from the Gods. He was absolutely magnificent when he returned, a man whose form inspired those around him and almost car- ried Liverpool to their first title since 1990.
Brendan Rodgers brought Suarez back into his team at the first possible opportunity — it was a League Cup tie at Manchester United in late September — but it is here that the story of the Uru- guayan and Coutinho will differ.
Coutinho, having recovered from the back issue that flared up in between Barcelona’s first bid of £72million and the second of £90million, got some much-needed game time against Ecuador last week and he will get more minutes on the pitch when Brazil face Colombia in Barranquilla.
Yet should all his players report back from international duty with a clean bill of health, Klopp won’t be in a hurry to shoehorn Coutinho into his team for the Etihad Stadium; Liverpool’s manager might not even find a place for him on the bench.
Why should he? Coutinho didn’t think about the team when he was making plain his desire to move to Catalonia. Klopp’s thoughts, by contrast, are only what will benefit the team and to select Coutinho immediately would be grossly unfair to any of those involved in the first five fixtures.
It goes without saying there will be a role for him in the coming weeks and months, as his selection in the Champions League squad proves.
He is a player bursting with quality and you only have to look at the glorious way he scored against Ecuador to remind yourself of the things he can do.
Daniel Sturridge still calls Coutinho ‘ David Blaine’ and after last season’s thrashing of Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, Klopp was still raving about his No 10’s performance — which included a wonderful ‘no look’ pass — at Melwood three days later. To do that is out of character for the German.
You can envisage Coutinho providing the ammunition for the front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah at some point soon, as he doesn’t have the speed of those three and Klopp will find a deeper position for him to cause damage.
That said, there cannot be an immediate recall. This is not 2013 and Coutinho is not Suarez’s level. He should have to bide his time before being reintroduced.
And when the moment comes, he needs to repay Liverpool as Suarez did: with performances to show why there was such a fuss. — Daily Mail
Philippe Coutinho was keen on leaving liverpool to join Barcelona this summer