Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard called Philippe Coutinho “a special footballer” and “a friend of mine,” and now that friend is his player on loan from Barcelona.
Villa will have an option to buy the Brazilian, who made his name starring for Liverpool as Gerrard’s teammate.
Coutinho, 29, has two goals in 16 appearances for Barcelona this season and while he has not been a feature player for Barca or loan club Bayern Munich since 2018-19, he still has some stats that say he can hit his Liverpool numbers again.
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Coutinho was at his very best in 2017-18 when Barcelona bought him. He posted 12 goals and eight assists in 20 matches for the Reds before his January move to the Nou Camp, where he had nine goals and eight assists in 22 games.
Since then, his best season was a loan to Bayern where he scored 11 times with 14 assists between two competitions and won the Champions League.
What can Philippe Coutinho do for Aston Villa?
Really, the struggle has been reaching the expectations attached to his price tag.
“Sixty-three caps for Brazil, a serial winner, played for Barcelona, was incredible at Liverpool,” Gerrard said. “I can understand why a lot of supporters up and down the country are speaking about him. I don’t think you get a nickname as a Magician if you’re not a special footballer. He’s someone I’ve got an incredible amount of respect for.”
If Gerrard is willing to provide Coutinho with freedom to do what he does best and some ignorance of what he doesn’t do well, this could be a big win.
Coutinho’s creativity and wizardry in shooting and progressing the ball is elite and he’s not an absolute slouch in trying to win the ball back (though it’s far from a strength). As long as Gerrard isn’t going to some sort of psycho press, there are reasons to think this will be a success.
Villa hosts Liverpool in April, so we won’t see Coutinho in front of a full Anfield unless the pair are drawn together in the FA Cup.