What now for Coutinho?

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

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

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