By Anthony Stanley (TTT Subscriber Dannyluke10).
No. 3: Philippe Coutinho
“He’s a little street footballer with wonderful vision. The type of player that can make a difference” – Brendan Rodgers.
Coutinho is ours, he just fits. It’s a Liverpool thing; a potentially world-class player who looks like the kid who perennially loses his lunch money to bullies. He’s the underdog, the pocket rocket who has the appearance of someone who partakes in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons after training; the nerd boy who happens to be a genius. For the same reason that so many just instinctively prefer Messi to Ronaldo, we rejoice in his every touch. He is no modern footballing juggernaut, all muscle, speed and sinew – he is a throwback, a diminutive magician that can effortlessly carve open defences with a flick of his boot. He is imagination writ large, the personification of what joy the game of football can give supporters; a walking, jogging and beguiling oxymoron made flesh. To witness him harrying defenders like a fiendish terrier is a joy; to view him drop a shoulder as he saunters off away from a lumbering and towering centre-half with balletic ease and grace has been one of the pleasures of the season. To watch as he, when on song, surgically rips apart a team’s carefully constructed rearguard is to believe in the presence of the divine on a football field. When compared to the rugged athleticism of so many Premier League midfielders it becomes apparent that Coutinho shouldn’t survive. But not only has he endured, he has thrived, bringing a breath of fresh air to the world of often jaded cynicism that is the Premier League. I’m a fan, in case you haven’t noticed.
But let me quantify all this straight away and make an early confession. Early on in this season I wondered, I pondered on Coutinho’s form and asked myself when an apparent blip in performance has become a serious issue. As his radar appeared to be slightly askew and through ball after through ball went just slightly awry, I asked myself whether his performance level in the second part of last season was the exception rather than the rule and not the inverse. But then, like the sorcerer he is, the little Brazilian pulls a metaphorical rabbit from a hat and my faith is restored again. Because this is the very essence of Philippe; in a season in which we have all been thrilled but equally fought to keep our expectations in check, Coutinho has embodied my fluctuating mood. Do I really believe? Is it right to have faith? As I write these words, the day after another hugely encouraging Liverpool performance in St Mary’s in which a below-par Coutinho was hooked relatively early, I again question my beliefs. But to love is to have faith and our number ten, like many in this Liverpool side, makes it easy to adore him, warts of inconsistency and all.
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