Nothing intrigues Liverpool supporters quite as much as an exotic name, and that of Philippe Coutinho has got the Anfield faithful clamouring for show-reels, statistics and opinion. Well look no further fellow Reds, because we’ve done all the legwork for you and compiled a report detailing everything you need to know about the Brazilian.
At a glance
Full name: Philippe Coutinho Correia
Date of birth: 12 June 1992 (age 20)
Birthplace: Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Height: 1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight: 72kg (11.3 stone)
Positions: LW, RW, CAM.
Foot: Both (right strongest).
Road to Liverpool
Liverpool recently agreed a deal to bring Coutinho to the English Premier League and the move is expected to be made official imminently on completion of a successful medical and work permit application, but he began his career over 5000 miles away in Brazil.
Vasco da Gama
Coutinho’s first club was Vasco da Gama, a Campeonato Brasileiro outfit based in his home city of Rio de Janeiro. Joining as a youngster in 1999, he would progress through the club’s ranks until 2008, when Inter Milan came calling with a €4 million bid for the then 16-year-old.
As part of the terms of Coutinho’s transfer to Inter he would remain at newly promoted Vasco on loan for the 2009-10 Série A campaign, where he featured in 31 games in all competitions, gaining some much needed experience ahead of his move to Italy.
Coutinho moved to Inter in July 2010, almost a month after his 18th birthday. There he linked up with manager Rafael Benitez, who had himself only just arrived at the club.
Benitez appeared to rate the Brazilian highly as he was soon involved in the first team fold, making his début as a substitute in the UEFA Super Cup final in August 2010. He made a few more appearances from the bench in quick succession, before being handed his first start in a 4-0 win against Werder Bremen in the Champions League on September 29.
That season Coutinho made a total of 20 appearances for Inter, the vast majority of which came under Benitez. The Spaniard’s departure midway through the campaign certainly didn’t do the youngster any favours and he was often left on the bench under Leonardo, who went on to resign that summer.
Coutinho then saw Gian Piero Gasperini come and go, before Claudio Ranieri took the reins in September 2011. He then featured scarcely and it was decided that he should go out on loan, with Espanyol taking him to La Liga on 30 January 2012.
Coutinho made 16 appearances for Espanyol, scoring five goals and making one assist. Inter Milan fan and Semrpreinter blogger Siavoush Fallahi followed the player’s progress during his loan spell at Espanyol, reporting the below:
He was a superstar. Under Mauricio Pochettino (now at Southampton, who also submitted a bid for the player in January) he did very well and the fans there loved him. He came back more mature and with a lot of self-confidence. It was an experience which served him well. Unfortunately for him he hasn’t had the same continuity of playing time this season to build on the confidence he gained from the loan spell.
Return to Inter Milan
Coutinho rarely featured for Inter under Andrea Stramaccioni this season. Injuries did not help his cause, but even when fully fit he found himself behind some top players in the pecking order. Most of his minutes came in the Europa League and his last outing in any capacity came in mid-December last year.
It didn’t take long for Coutinho to catch the eye of his national team selectors; he was a part of the squad which won the 2009 South American Under-17 Football Championship and was capped 8 times at U19 level. He then went on to earn a further 7 caps at U20 level where he won the 2011 World Cup. To date he has featured once for the senior side in a 3-0 friendly win over Iran in 2010.
Career performance data
Coutinho’s career performance data via Transfermarkt shows a steady improvement in his form over time. The data is listed from the most recent first.
Coutinho’s best data came from his time at Espanyol, suggesting the opportunity to play consistently under a manager who believed in his ability was a big boost to his form after being a bit-part player at Inter.
All of Coutinho’s raw data is outlined above, but here’s some other interesting stats courtesy of Life’s a Pitch contributor Adam Digby.
Over the last year Coutinho has scored 7 goals in 40 shots. That’s a goal every 5.7 shots. Luis Suarez has scored 16 Premier League goals with 129 shots this season; an average of one goal every 5.9 shots.
In the same period Coutinho has crafted 25 goal scoring opportunities, while completing 77% of his passes.
Coutinho conceded possession just 10 times this season, underlining his good control and intelligent use of the ball.
During his loan spell at Espanyol, Coutinho won 1.8 tackles and made 1.4 interceptions per game. Carlos Tevez, one of the hardest working forwards in the Premier League, averages 0.8 and 0.5 per game respectively.
Coutinho averaged a goal every 235 minutes in La Liga, or a goal every 2.6 games.
Coutinho averaged 4.4 successful dribbles per game, the second highest in Serie A, and behind only Hatem Ben Arfa in the Premier League.
Coutinho is an exciting player. Fast, direct and tricky, he’ll be sure to have the crowd on their feet as he turns defenders inside out, though he might also have them sat back down quite quickly on occasion as he attempts to adapt his game to the pace and power of the Premier League.
By now you’ve probably exhausted every YouTube showreel on offer (there’s more later if you haven’t), so you’ll have a good idea of what the lad can do at his best. But in the interest of being balanced we’ve enlisted the help of our friend Siavoush again to provide us with a knowledgeable account of the player.
Pace - Coutinho is fast. It’s common to see him accelerate past his opponents.
Skill / control – This kid has some skill. He has many different moves that he likes to use and his control of the ball is beautiful.
Strength - Coutinho is short and light. He isn’t very strong but his other qualities compensate for this.
Intelligence - He is a smart player. He knows how and where to run and his intelligence both with and without the ball is one of his greatest strengths.
Passing / vision - In my opinion these are his best attributes. Don’t be surprised if you see Coutinho play amazing passes to team-mates who aren’t on his level of intelligence. He sees solutions and knows when to pass. He is an assists man; more known for his passing than for scoring, though he has become more reliable in his goalscoring as well. As well as providing assists, he can also be the one who creates an opportunity for another player to provide an assist too.
Shooting / composure - Coutinho has a good shot. His composure could improve but he usually tries to find an opportunity to score from all angles. He scores all types of goals but I’d say he’s more of a spectacular goalscorer than the Pippo Inzaghi type of poacher. He sees the solutions in the box and if his shot is on target it’s often very dangerous.
Strongest foot - His strongest foot is definitely his right. For skill moves he may use his left, but for passes and shots his right foot is the one he favours.
Technique - His technique is great. He, like many other Brazilian players, started out playing futsal (video later) and he still has those skills with him today. He has great technique and can provide truly magical moments at times.
Tackling / marking - Since he’s a true attacking player these are his ‘weaknesses’. He’s not the player who should be working hard with man marking and tackling other players; he’s the one you give the ball to if you need a moment of magic in attack which can win you the game.
Work rate - This is not the type of attacking player that you’ll see running for the whole game and tracking back his opponents for 90 minutes. Even if he is capable of doing so a good coach knows that he is best in the offensive half of the field and with 100% of his energy on this he can be truly devastating to the opposition.
Tactical discipline - During this season when he played we could see Coutinho track back to help the defence. When Inter beat Fiorentina 2-1 at home Stramaccioni pointed him out as the key player in the game because he helped the team with shutting down Borja Valero and Claudio Pizzarro in their build-up play. If he must, he’ll be grateful to help the team in any way he’s asked.
Confidence - At the moment it’s difficult to determine anything about this. Though he’s not scared to take on opponents and try to beat them with dribbles, no matter their size, or who it is. It seems Coutinho’s confidence comes with continuity and if he feels that the coach believes in him.
Fitness – Coutinho has had some injury problems this season which worried Inter supporters. He came back, and then he’d be injured again a short time after. Or he’d be ready to play, just to get injured again. It’s often muscle strains that keep him out for shorter periods, though he had a serious injury this season. There shouldn’t be any more problems with that one though; the strains are the ones to worry about and at the moment he’s out with a minor injury.
NB: Coutinho’s training schedule at Inter is thought to have involved a lot of strength and size work which could explain some of his muscle strains as he pushed his body to its limits in order to encourage growth at a crucial time in his physical development. This is something the LFC fitness and nutrition staff will work very hard on managing.
Coutinho has been used as an offensive midfielder (Trequartista), second striker and on the flanks. This proves that he has many qualities and that he can do well in different positions on the field. In my opinion he should be used as the offensive midfielder, but he also does well on the left wing since he’s often facing less players, can go one-on-one and provide both through balls, crosses and shots.
It’s no secret that Liverpool’s ongoing philosophy is to buy and develop young players so that they might enjoy them at their peak, so we asked Siavoush just how much better he thinks the Brazilian can get.
If his injury problems don’t hamper his progress and if he gets to play with continuity he can become one of the best attacking midfielders in the world. No doubt about it. It’s hard to say how he might change when he becomes older, but I’d say as he matures he’ll know how to deliver assists and goals with more consistency.
We asked Siavoush if there were any well-known players who Coutinho compared to. He said:
He’s a bit like Oscar of Chelsea. But with better vision and passing. This is if I really have to compare him to someone. In my opinion he’s special and has his own way of playing. Unlike many other Brazilian talents he doesn’t get too caught up with dribbling but releases the ball when he should and likes assists as much as goals. If I were to compare him to another famous player he could emulate it would be Wesley Sneijder, though Wes is much better with his left foot than I think Coutinho will be.
Incidentally, Coutinho himself has previously declared Robinho and Kaka to be his idols while also admitting that there are similarities between the way he and Sneijder play. From a Liverpool perspective, there are glimpses of Sterling and Suarez in him too.
Characteristics play a big part in determining how successful a footballer will be. As Siavoush explains, we should have no worries about Coutinho in that respect.
Coutinho is a very calm person and a bit shy. He’s married to his girlfriend who has been with him for a long time and when he was asked what he likes to do with his spare time in Milan he said he likes to spend it with his family, friends and girlfriend. Coutinho is down to earth and I wouldn’t expect him to be a trouble maker at all. He enjoys playing football and loves the game, there have never been any reports about him misbehaving in training or behaving badly. He’s a great kid.
Coutinho is very close to his friends and family, even crediting his wife for keeping him grounded and focused. Ever since he was a youngster at Vasco da Gama the men of the family, he, his father and his two older brothers who work as lawyers, would sit and discuss his performances after matches and training. One could easily imagine him forming strong bonds with the South American contingent on Merseyside, in particular Lucas Leiva, with whom he shares many characteristics. There are even reports that the two are already in touch, and they currently follow each other on Instagram.
So why are Inter selling him?
This is the burning question. Club President Massimo Moratti once described Coutinho as “the future of Inter,” so why on earth would they let him go? Siavoush explains:
The reason(s) Inter are selling Coutinho are mostly financial. Inter want to bring in Paulinho from Corinthians and need to sacrifice a player. It was between Alvarez and Coutinho and since Coutinho is an attractive player for many clubs it has probably been easier to choose him. Inter have financial problems that need to be solved as well.
The footballing reason for Coutinho being sold is that he has failed to impress this season; even though he hasn’t been given a lot of playing time, he hasn’t been shining when he’s had the opportunity. All of this, together with his injuries and maybe the new ideas of the coach have forced Inter to sell him. If you ask for my opinion, I’m angry with this. Coutinho is born 12th of june 1992, the same year and date as me. He shares the date with Diego Milito as well (the player who gave us the treble in 2010). I was completely sure it was in his destiny to become an Inter legend.
In journalism there’s an expression called “Killing your darlings,” which means you cut out some of your text to improve it. This is hurtful when you’ve worked hard on writing a piece. And Inter are now forced to kill a darling, in this case I hope the darling is replaced with another one.
Liverpool are reportedly buying Coutinho for €10 million, with talk of a further 3m in add-ons. We asked Siavoush whether he thought this represented a good deal for both parties.
€10 million for Coutinho would mean that Liverpool robbed Inter. I hope for Inter to receive at least €13 million and I’d be satisfied.
Life in the Premier League
Many foreign footballers have told of the difficulty in adapting to the pace and physicality of the Premier League. Some believe this might be a problem for such a sleight player, but Siavoush believes Coutinho will take well to the challenge ahead.
I think Coutinho will have a lot of defenders in the Premier League dancing Samba, although he might have problems with the physical presence of the defenders and the often harsh tackles. I hope for Coutinho that Liverpool involve him with the ball on the ground, otherwise he’d just be standing and watching from the side as if it was a tennis game being played out in front of him. If he can get the ball at his feet I really think the tempo, speed and free-flowing nature of the Premier League will suit him well.
Coutinho speaks Italian and Portuguese. He has not yet had any reason to learn English, although he will likely begin to do so as soon as he arrives in Liverpool.
“For me, he’s a phenomenon. He’s like a Ferrari. When he’s dribbling with the ball at his feet, you just can’t catch up to him.” – Coutinho’s friend, compatriot and Inter team-mate Juan Jesus.
“He is a young player with lots of quality. He can be the future of the club and we expect him to do very well for us.” – Rafa Benitez making a claim backed up by Massimo Moratti.
“I’m a midfielder. I like to play behind the strikers and attack, so yes, I’m a bit like Wes Sneijder. My role models? Robinho and Kaka. The comparisons with Pato? It’s flattering, but we’re two different players. He’s a striker, I’m more a midfielder.” – Coutinho upon being introduced to the press after signing for Inter.
“I’m just Coutinho, a kid who’s getting better. Ronaldinho is an extra-terrestrial who’s won everything. I’d be happy to achieve half of his success.” – A humble Coutinho on comparisons with a Brazilian legend.
“My family is the foundation of everything in my life. I’m a very quiet person. And I have to be, right? My family is always on my ass!” – Coutinho jokes about his life off the field.
“Things get done for a reason and selling Coutinho is not done with the idea of cashing in but because, looking at the way things have developed recently, we have a greater need in different areas than Coutinho’s position, regardless of his age.” – Moratti on the sale of the youngster.
You’ve probably already seen the highlight reels, but just in case you haven’t we’ve sourced his best bits below. Just remember, they are his best bits.
A little extra
To end this player profile we’ve got a great little anecdote courtesy of Siavoush about Coutinho’s first experience of Inter. Or should we say Inter’s first experience of Coutinho!?
There was a Story about Coutinho when he first came on trial at Inter when he was 16 years old. Apparently he played the ball through the legs of Materazzi, the latter then confronted Coutinho after the move and explained: “If you do that again, I’ll kill you,” whilst the other players were laughing at Materazzi and hugging Coutinho. I think he did the same to Walter Samuel later on, but seeing as he’s still alive it probably didn’t happen again!
Ultimately time will tell just how accurate this assessment of Coutinho and his chances of starring in the Liverpool set-up are, but from what we know now it is plausible to suggest that we’ve signed a very good and a very unique player in the context of our current squad.
If he can stay fit, and if he is given the time and encouragement he needs in order to develop, we might just have a top player on our hands. Either way, it looks like it will be great fun finding out.
Let’s talk about it on Twitter: @liam_tomkins