The day after Liverpool had thrashed Crystal Palace and the squad had gathered at Melwood to go through a routine warm down session.
Jurgen Klopp, not surprisingly, was in high spirits. He had seen his side score four goals, extend their unbeaten run to 11 games with an exhilarating display of attacking football. Liverpool’s manager, as is his way, was keen to stress to all involved at Selhurst Park how good they had been as a team.
There was, however, something a bit different about Klopp on this afternoon. It is rare for him to single out players but, given what he had seen in South London the previous evening, he couldn’t contain himself.Coutinho!’ he said, shaking his head with admiration and enthusiasm and repeating the name for effect. ‘Coutinho!’ 
This is how influential Coutinho has become. That performance against Palace, which included two assists and an extravagant ‘no look’ pass, was the latest glittering instalment from a season that is already well on course to become his best on Merseyside.
Coutinho has threatened from the moment he arrived at Anfield in January 2013 to become something special and now we are seeing all that potential fulfilled, both domestically and internationally – look at the goal he ripped into Argentina’s net to inspire a stunning win for Brazil on Thursday night.
It is why a man who has been christened ‘David Blaine’ by Daniel Sturridge has woken on Friday morning to see a report in Sport, the Barcelona-based newspaper, with a front page headline screaming ‘Objetivo Coutinho’; when you perform at such a level, the world’s best take notice.
He is fast approaching his peak and, with three-and-a-half years remaining on his contract, Liverpool intend to build their team around him, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, the other attacking zephyrs who have blown through opposition defences.
And to think Liverpool were able to buy him for just £8million, beating Southampton to his signature in Brendan Rodgers’ first campaign. Back then, he was a young boy with a shock of curly black hair who was in danger of becoming a footballing nomad.
His journey from Brazil to Europe began in early 2008, when Inter Milan struck a deal with Vasco De Gama when Jose Mourinho was in charge at the San Siro. Coutinho, who began kicking a ball around aged just three, moved to Italy two years later but never got a chance to work with Mourinho.
‘I trained with them for two days when I went to sign my contract,’ Coutinho told Sportsmail in January 2015. ‘I met (Mourinho) then and had a couple of conversations with him. He was helpful because it was someone else who spoke Portuguese.’He told me just to be free and do whatever I would have to do. I never got the chance to work with him properly as he left in the summer I joined. By then, (Rafa) Benitez had come in. He was very helpful. He gave me confidence. Training was good and he had a good way of working.’
But Benitez’s stay in Milan was only brief and Coutinho never sparkled for the Nerazzuri as they hoped he would and, eventually, he was loaned to Espanyol where he enjoyed a confidence boosting spell under Mauricio Pochettino.
Liverpool, though, had been watching his progress and saw their chance to swoop early in Rodgers’ reign. His influence was crucial in the early days, as he struggled to adjust to the rough and tumble of the Premier League. Rodgers showed patience at a time when others might have lacked tolerance.
‘He gave me the opportunity to play and time to adapt,’ said Coutinho. ‘It was difficult to adapt at first. The physicality? It takes you be surprise. But it is not just about getting used to that. The speed is what really takes time to adjust. Intensity is a big thing. You can never relax for a minute.’Yet Coutinho felt at home straight away. He remembers walking into the foyer at Melwood and seeing the European Cup that Liverpool had won in Istanbul on display and talking to Steven Gerrard about how he had watched that impossible comeback against AC Milan as 10-year-old in Rio.
He had Lucas Leiva, Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates to help him adjust and the regular South America gatherings they held with their families meant he and his wife, Aine, were not hankering for home. Almost four years on, they are now totally comfortable in Liverpool.
That peace of mind off the pitch he enjoys is now evident in his performances and he now has the attribute that all the best show: consistency. Whereas he would come up with a goal or an assist every couple of weeks, it now seems to be every game.
What’s more, he is even doing it away from home. Coutinho used to struggle outside Anfield but since Klopp arrived, he has come up with decisive moments at Stamford Bridge, the Emirates Stadium and, of course, in a Europa League last-16 tie at Old Trafford.Already this season, Coutinho’s goals and assists have been directly responsible for 10 of Liverpool’s points and that gives you an idea of what how crucial he is.
All those platitudes, nonetheless, must be tempered. He wears the No 10 shirt, which was formerly the possession of men such as John Barnes – twice a league Champion – and Michael Owen, who won a Cup treble and a Ballon d’Or while at Liverpool.
Those are the standards to which he must aspire and it still rankles with some Liverpool fans that he could not sprinkle stardust in the second half of the Europa League final against Sevilla in May, when a chance to create his own history slipped away.
‘I won the Under 20 World Cup with Brazil in Colombia when I was 20,’ Coutinho once said. ‘I was at Inter when they won the Club World Cup and European Super Cup but I didn’t play at the time. I want one of my own here.’
Should he continue to play as he has been, his ambition will come closer to being realised. Not only that, it mean Klopp will find it hard not to keep breaking one of his own rules by singling out Anfield’s Magician.


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