From wonderkid to unwanted goods – what went wrong for Coutinho at Inter?

ANALYSIS
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer

Inter were not always of the belief that Philippe Coutinho was better off away from San Siro. Back in 2008, he was seen as a huge coup when the Nerazzurri landed his signature at the age of just 16 for a €3.5 million fee. Yet now, the Brazilian is headed for the Premier League and Liverpool with the Italian club’s best wishes.

Although they could not make use of their new signing until he turned 18, there was a great deal of satisfaction around Appiano Gentile when Inter persuaded Vasco da Gama to part with his economic rights two years before his eventual move to Europe. Coutinho had developed such a reputation while making his way through the Vasco youth ranks that it was seen in no way as a gamble, despite his age and the fact they would have to wait 24 months before he could pull on the blue and black in a competitive fixture.

But things have not exactly gone to plan since Coutinho arrived in Italy, with Inter going as far as to persuade the player that a move away from the club is for the best as they looked to cash in on the €11m Liverpool offered.

After a promising initial spell in Rafael Benitez’s six-month reign, the 20-year-old has found it difficult to find a regular spot in the side. Even under the Spaniard, the attacking midfielder was regularly forced to play on the left of a 4-2-3-1 simply to get into the team, but things have only grown more difficult for him under the subsequent coaching spells of Leonardo, Gian Piero Gasperini, Claudio Ranieri and Andrea Stramaccioni. There have been occasional sights of a first-team shirt, but not since Benitez was in charge has Coutinho started more than two league fixtures in succession.

TWO DIFFERENT PLAYERS | Coutinho since 2010
39 TOTAL APPEARANCES 16
20 TOTAL STARTS 14
1,777 TOTAL MINUTES PLAYED 1,222
28 LEAGUE APPEARANCES 16
15 LEAGUE STARTS 14
1,320 LEAGUE MINUTES PLAYED
1,222
4 GOALS 5
444.3 MINUTES PER GOAL
244.4
3 ASSISTS 1

Sergio Chesi, Goal.com Italy’s deputy editor, explains why things have not worked out for Countinho in a Nerazzurri shirt.

“Coutinho has been unlucky at Inter, for many reasons,” explains Sergio. “The first is because he arrived immediately after the club had won the treble, when they began going through the difficulties they are still experiencing to this day. It was hard for a youngster to find himself thrust into such a problematic situation.

“Not since Benitez was in charge has Coutinho started more than two league fixtures in succession

“Then there were the frequent physical problems he suffered, showing certain limitations as he grew, and also the fact he never really gave the impression that he had the personality to make the difference at the very highest levels, nor the physical attributes to have a say in the Italian championship. Personally, I am amazed that Liverpool are spending such a sum of money on a player who has offered so little in Serie A.”

So why are the Reds taking such a gamble? Well, during his loan spell with Espanyol in the second half of the 2011-12 season, Coutinho revelled in the freedom he was given, attracting a whole host of great reviews in the process. The only fixture in which he did not feature during his spell in Barcelona was one for which he was suspended after seeing red against Osasuna. Such was his form in the blue and white shirt, he scored more goals in four months in Spain than he has during his entire spell with Inter.

That stat is less surprising when you look at the fact he started 14 league games for the Periquitos compared to 15 in two-and-a-half years at San Siro. Given the chance to prove himself over a long period, Coutinho spread his wings and made a real impression. It is an unavoidable fact that the Brazilian has not produced any kind of consistency at Inter, but how can he be expected to do so when he has not been picked with any consistency either?

It is often said of skillful players that teams can struggle to locate them a spot in which they can truly show their best football, and that has never been more true than in the case of Inter and Coutinho. A player of undoubted qualities on the ball, great pace, a sure eye for a pass and impressive composure for a youngster, he is the latest talent to be lost at the Nerazzurri.

And if he excels on Merseyside, then a succession of Inter coaches past and present may well be left to answer a few difficult questions as to why he was not given the chance to show just how good he can be.

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Liverpool complete €13.7 million Coutinho signing

Liverpool have completed the signing of 20-year-old Inter midfielder Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazil international joined the Serie A side from Vasco da Gama in 2010, and spent the second half of last season on loan at Spanish side Espanyol.
The Premier League side agreed an €13.7 million transfer fee with Inter after seeing their initial bid of €7.5m rejected.

Coutinho becomes the Reds’ second signing of the January transfer window after the move to sign Daniel Sturridge, with only one day remaining to complete any other deals.

Southampton were also interested in the playmaker following his work with new Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino at Espanyol, but Coutinho made his preference to sign for Liverpool clear.

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre added: “We’re always delighted when we get the players we go after.

“It has been a successful transfer window for us, coming off the back of acquiring Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea and now Philippe from Inter Milan.

“I think that bodes well for us for the rest of the season and the future.”

Coutinho will wear the No.10 shirt.

Coutinho in Liverpool to tie up €13m transfer

By David Lynch

Liverpool are set to tie up the €13.6 million signing of Philippe Coutinho from Inter after the attacker arrived on Merseyside on Tuesday to complete the deal.

The 20-year-old has agreed personal terms with the Anfield club and will be officially unveiled after securing a work permit and completing paperwork.

The Brazilian was pictured with his new club’s shirt on Tuesday evening having stopped to sign it for a supporter.

Coutinho, who has one senior Brazil cap, has made just five Serie A appearances so far this term after finding himself down the pecking order upon his return from last season’s loan spell with Espanyol.

Inter president Massimo Moratti recently described the midfielder’s move to Anfield as a “great opportunity” for him to gain more playing time.

He is set to become Liverpool’s second signing of January following the arrival of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea.

Rodgers confirms talks over Inter starlet Coutinho

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has confirmed the club are in talks to sign Inter starlet Philippe Coutinho.

Goal.com confirmed over the weekend that the Reds have agreed an £11.7 million fee with the Nerazzurri for the Brazilian playmaker, although Rodgers was keen to stress that the deal is a long way from being completed.

“There’s been talks between the clubs but that’s about it, so nothing to report,” the Northern Irishman told reporters.

Rodgers saw his side dumped out of the FA Cup at the hands of League One side Oldham on Sunday, but he dismissed claims that such a defeat meant he would have to bring new players in, instead claiming that it could be used to improve the players he already has.

“It was very disappointing yesterday,” he admitted.

“There’s no doubt, and I know it’s a part of the growing pains that we have in terms of going forward but it’s something that we’re fully aware of and we know in this window it’s never going to be fulfilled.

“It was another marker in the fact that we want to develop the group and improve the group and that’s something I’m sure we’ll deal with in the coming windows.”

Liverpool move a 'great opportunity' for Coutinho, says Moratti

Inter president Massimo Moratti believes Philippe Coutinho’s imminent transfer to Liverpool is the best result for all parties.

The 20-year-old has found his opportunities at the San Siro limited so far this season, but is expected to complete an €13.7 million move to Anfield early next week.

And Moratti has insisted that a switch to the Premier League will be good for the Brazilian’s development.

“There are certain opportunities that should be taken,” he told reporters. “Sometimes players are able to get more playing time, and so I think it could be a great opportunity for Coutinho and a deal that might work out well for us.”

The Italian went on to admit that Inter’s pursuit of Corinthians midfielder Paulinho is stalling due to the Brazilian club’s asking price.

“Does Paulinho cost too much, or is it something that could actually come to fruition? There’s no doubt that he costs too much,” he continued.

“Whether it could come to fruition is something we’ll see in the next few days.”

However, one player who will definitely not be moving to Inter this January is wantaway Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli.

When asked whether his club might make a late swoop, Moratti simply replied: “No.”

'Skilful Coutinho could be perfect for the Premier League' – everything you need to know about Inter's Liverpool transfer target

PROFILE
By Chris Myson & Matt Scott

Liverpool have been expected to bolster their ranks further in January and after the signing of Daniel Sturridge, Inter starlet Philippe Coutinho is on the brink of becoming the next arrival at Anfield.

Coutinho came through the youth system of Brazilian heavyweights Vasco da Gama, a club he initially joined at just seven years of age.

Before he even made his debut for the club, the playmaker was already making waves. His exceptional performances in the youth team and internationally for Brazil Under-16 and 17s ensured he was quickly developing an impressive reputation.

Real Madrid were amongst the big European clubs who circled for his signature, although it was Inter who eventually won the race, paying €4.2 million for the then 16-year-old in 2008.

COURTING COUTINHO

PHILIPPE COUTINHO FACTS
AGE
CAREER APPS
CAREER GOALS
TRANSFER FEES
BRAZIL DEBUT
20
96
15
€4.2m
v Iran Oct 7 2010

The Serie A club allowed him to stay with Vasco da Gama on loan until he turned 18 in 2010, when they made his transfer official and brought him to San Siro.

By that point he had played over two seasons for the first team at his boyhood club, in the second campaign becoming a regular and important contributor to the side.

He spent an initial 18 months in and around the Inter squad, making his debut in the Uefa Super Cup defeat to Atletico Madrid, although he never really established himself as a first-team regular.

“Coutinho has always impressed with his technical qualities, but he’s always been considered too inexperienced to make a real mark during his time in Italian football,” explains Goal.com Italy’s Maurizio Piano.

“That means a lot of his most brilliant performances have come during friendly matches in pre-season. In senior games, he didn’t get picked to play too often and, when he did, it tended to be from the substitutes’ bench.”

For the second half of the 2011-12 season, Coutinho was loaned to La Liga outfit Espanyol and he impressed under Mauricio Pochettino, now manager of Southampton.

He played 16 matches as he helped the Catalan club to a mid-table finish and scored five times, two of which were particularly spectacular efforts – a free kick against Malaga and a volley against Racing Santander.

Since returning from Spain, Coutinho would have hoped to improve his fortunes with Inter on the back of the confidence gained in La Liga, but most recently, an injury has also hindered his progress as he tries to force his way into the team.

Now, despite the player’s stated wish to remain at Inter, it seems the club are determined to move him on, as they have done with Wesley Sneijder, to raise funds for new pursuits in the market.

Maurizio added: “Coutinho has never really been seen as a certain starter for Inter. Now, the Nerazzurri need money to try and buy Paulinho from Corinthians.

“Just like Ricky Alvarez, Coutinho is seen as one of the expendable players Inter are prepared to sell in order to raise money that allows them to buy in this transfer window.”

The Reds have been in the market for an attacking midfielder this month after allowing Nuri Sahin to leave Merseyside and rejoin his former club Dortmund, the Turkey international having failed to make an impact at Anfield.

Wesley Sneijder was a Liverpool target until the Netherlands playmaker chose to leave Inter for Galatasaray.

The 28-year-old was thought to be holding out for an offer from the Premier League, but could not be persuaded to wait for an offer from Anfield and joined the Turkish giants in a €7.5 million deal.

Where Sneijder is a pass-master, Coutinho is a completely different kind of player, but is not lacking the kind of creative spark that saw the Dutchman regarded so highly.

The Brazilian has often found himself lining up on the left-hand side at Inter and Espanyol, a position that has been rotated between youngsters Raheem Sterling and Suso at Anfield for much of this term.

Possessing a lightning-quick burst of speed, but typically South American close-control, Coutinho is a flair player who will not think twice when taking a man on, with a penchant for lobbing his man.

When cutting inside on to his right foot, the 20-year-old is an accurate finisher; indeed, his return of 15 goals from 96 career games is impressive for a youngster who has featured in a wide role in most of those appearances.

With the teenaged Sterling feeling signs of burn-out after a whirlwind introduction to the Premier League, and Suso seeming to lack the speed required for the top-flight, Coutinho could be a happy medium between the two.

Maurizio certainly feels he could be a success story at Anfield if the deal goes ahead, saying: “Even if at Inter he has been used at times as a midfielder, he really is more like an attacking midfielder or even outright attacker.

“He may not be particularly physically strong but he is certainly fast and agile. He has good vision, strong dribbling skills and can certainly be a prolific creator of chances. I think he could do well in the Premier League, since he is quick and has great skills.”

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Liverpool agree €13m deal for Inter starlet Coutinho

By Greg Stobart

Liverpool are closing in on the signing of Philippe Coutinho after agreeing a €13.7 million deal with Inter for the midfielder, Goal.com can confirm.

Coutinho is due to travel to Merseyside in the coming days to discuss personal terms and undergo a medical ahead of the move.

Liverpool faced competition from Southampton for the Brazilian but appear to have got their man after an Anfield delegation flew to Italy this week to negotiate the transfer.

The Reds have increased their initial €7.6m bid for Coutinho and the 20-year-old is understood to have made clear his preference to move to Anfield.

Coutinho played under new Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino while on loan at Espanyol last season but Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has been determined to improve his squad as he targets a top four finish.

The Reds signed Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea at the start of the month in a €14m deal and are also hoping to conclude a move for Blackpool midfielder Tom Ince before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

They will have to apply for a work permit before Coutinho’s proposed transfer can be concluded but that is regarded as a formality for the versatile playmaker, who has been capped once for Brazil.

Inter’s financial circumstances have meant they have actively encouraged Liverpool’s interest in Coutinho this month, despite selling Wesley Sneijder to Galatasaray, as the Serie A giants line up a move for Corinthians star Paulinho.

Coutinho signed for Inter from Vasco da Gama when he was 16, though he spent a further two years at the Brazilian club before moving to Italy. Coutinho had a productive spell on loan at Espanyol in the second half of last season before returning in the summer to Inter.

Despite starting only three of the club’s Serie A matches this season – and making 10 league appearances in total – Coutinho is regarded as an emerging star.

Speaking to Sky Italia earlier this week about Liverpool’s interest, he said: “The Liverpool offer? I’m happy with these offers, because it means I am doing my job well.

“But I think Inter have faith in me and I want to show my value here. I don’t feel that I’m on my way out. I hope to stay at Inter. The young players feel the faith of the coach and of the club.”

Liverpool fly out to Italy to negotiate Coutinho transfer

A Liverpool delegation flew out to Italy on Wednesday to negotiate the transfer of Inter playmaker Philippe Coutinho.

The Anfield officials, led by managing director Ian Ayre, are hopeful of agreeing a deal for the 20-year-old Brazilian.

But they face competition from Southampton, who have also declared an interest in capturing Coutinho.

Liverpool had a bid of around €7.7 million rejected for Coutinho last week but are confident an improved offer will be accepted by the Serie A giants.

Inter have placed a valuation of €11-13m on the attacking midfielder, who has played a single full international for Brazil.

Coutinho’s public stance is that he is happy to stay at Inter but Liverpool have been given encouragement that a deal is possible this month, given the state of finances at the Italian club.

The player signed for Inter from Vasco da Gama when he was 16, though he spent a further two years at the Brazilian club before moving to Italy. Coutinho had a productive spell on loan at Espanyol in the second half of last season before returning in the summer to Inter.

Despite starting only three of the club’s Serie A matches this season – and making 10 league appearances in total – Coutinho is regarded as an emerging star.

Speaking to Sky Italia earlier this week about Liverpool’s interest, he said: “The Liverpool offer? I’m happy with these offers, because it means I am doing my job well.

“But I think Inter have faith in me and I want to show my value here. I don’t feel that I’m on my way out. I hope to stay at Inter.

The young players feel the faith of the coach and of the club.”

Why goal-threat Coutinho is what Liverpool really need in January

ANALYSIS
By David Lynch

When Brendan Rodgers arrived at Liverpool over the summer alongside his Swansea protégé Joe Allen, it is doubtful that the 39-year-old believed he had inherited a problematic midfield. His new club already possessed a top-notch holding man in Lucas Leiva, a world-class attacking midfielder in Steven Gerrard and, having purchased Allen, the presence which could knit these two talents together.

The bonus signing of Nuri Sahin and Jordan Henderson’s decision to stay and fight for his place meant the middle of the park actually appeared to be the single most well-stocked area of the squad. But, a setback in the form of a two-month lay-off for Lucas early in the season soon put paid to that theory.
Gerrard and Allen’s roles changed significantly during this period, as the pair were asked to drop deep whilst Jonjo Shelvey took on attacking duties. Unfortunately for the Welsh half of that holding duo, only Gerrard has seen off the challenge of Lucas’ return – but the most significant factor for Liverpool as a whole is that he has not reverted to an attacking role.

Gerrard and Liverpool’s benchmark-setting season in the Premier League era was arguably in 2008-09, as they finished just four points behind eventual champions Manchester United after a thrilling title chase. The Huyton-born captain excelled playing behind Fernando Torres as the Reds flourished that term; therefore it provides the best statistical evidence of the 32-year-old’s evolving responsibilities.

As is to be expected under a manager who prioritises ball retention, Liverpool’s possession statistics are up even on that unparalleled season, with the Reds completing an average of 534 passes per game as opposed to 513 in 08-09. Predictably, Gerrard is no different in that regard, averaging 74 passes per game in comparison to the 64 he produced four seasons ago.

The most telling figure, however, is that Gerrard has made 36 per cent of his numerous passes this season from the defensive third, whilst just 23% came from that area in 2008-09. The midfielder is undoubtedly moving deeper as age catches up with him and, despite being just one short of the career-best nine assists he provided in 2008-09, his gradual retreat has caused one sizeable issue this season; a huge void behind the strikers.

Both Henderson and Allen have been experimented at the peak of the midfield, but neither is an attacking midfielder in its classic definition, having scored just seven and four career Premier League goals respectively. But if Rodgers wants his midfield to continue functioning – and, in recent weeks, it has been doing so for the first time since his arrival – the goal haul of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez must be supplemented from elsewhere. Thus, the pursuit of Inter midfielder Philippe Coutinho makes perfect sense.

KOP WINDOW
TWO OF LIVERPOOL’S TOP TARGETS

COUTINHO

INCE

 CLUB: Inter
NATIONALITY: Brazilian
AGE: 20
POSITION: Winger/No.10
CAREER APPS: 96
CAREER GOALS: 15
 CLUB: Blackpool
NATIONALITY: English 
AGE: 20
POSITION: Winger
CAREER APPS: 79
CAREER GOALS: 23

The Brazilian has played as a No.10 in the past and may well be viewed as the long-term solution in that position but, should he arrive at Anfield this month, it is unlikely he will be given a baptism of fire in a role which is not exactly prevalent in English football. 

Much more likely is that the 20-year-old will be asked to come in from the left, a task he has performed with distinction several times in Italy and during a loan spell at Espanyol last season. Liverpool’s lack of goals from wide may have been masked by their desperate, season-defining pursuit of Sturridge, but with that desire sated, priorities should now shift accordingly.

Over the summer, the Merseyside club allowed Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy to depart, despite the trio contributing 20 goals from wide positions last season. So far this campaign, the combined efforts of Raheem Sterling, Stewart Downing, Fabio Borini, Oussama Assaidi and Suso have yielded just six.

Coutinho, meanwhile, has plundered three goals in just 10 starts despite falling out of favour at Inter, and that is undoubtedly the sort of return from the wings which would instantly improve Liverpool. In fact, somewhat incredibly given the club’s ill-advised summer policy, this threat could even be further boosted by the addition of a decidedly more long-term target in the shape of Tom Ince.

The former Reds trainee has scored 13 goals and provided 10 assists this term, statistics which far surpass those of the £15 million-rated Wilfried Zaha (even if they have come in the second tier of English football). Most encouragingly though, Ince has taken 72 shots in order to net on 13 occasions, a conversion rate of 18% which Liverpool’s most clinical winger in terms of shots-to-goals this season, Downing, comes nowhere near at 5%.

Barring a late twist in January – one which is entirely possible given the frantic nature of the window – Coutinho and Ince are likely to be the Merseysiders’ only remaining additions. But their status as young, talented, hungry players who resolve concerns regarding the current squad is particularly noteworthy for a club who have made headlines for the wrong reasons in recent times.

After years of inexplicably poor decisions in the transfer market, Liverpool might just be about to take control of their own destiny.

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Liverpool target Coutinho hopeful of Inter stay

Liverpool target Philippe Coutinho has outlined his preference to stay at Inter.

The 20-year-old attacking midfielder has been the subject of interest from the Reds, whose hopes of signing his now-former San Siro team-mate, Wesley Sneijder, were dashed when the Dutchman opted to join Galatasaray.

Reports had linked Brendan Rodgers’s side with an £8 million bid for the starlet that was rejected by the Nerazzurri.

“I don’t feel that I’m on my way out,” Coutinho told Sky Sport 24.

“I hope to stay at Inter. I feel the coach and the club trust me.

“Now I’m focused only on doing my best in my job and getting back on the field soon.”

The youngster has made only five appearances in Serie A for Andrea Stramaccioni’s side in 2012-13 but impressed during a short-term loan at Espanyol in Spain last season.

If he were to join the Reds, Coutinho would become the Premier League club’s second signing of the January transfer window after the capture of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea.