Nobody could fail to have been impressed by his instant impact since arriving at Anfield, but Philippe Coutinho believes he ‘knows nothing’ about football yet.
Two goals, two assists and a string of impressive performances over the course of his five appearances since swapping Milan for Merseyside in January have won the acclaim of both fans and teammates alike.
Despite still being just 20 years of age, in moving to the Barclays Premier League, England became the fourth country Coutinho has plied his trade in following Brazil, Italy and Spain.
This, he feels, has been a factor in helping him acclimatize to life in Red, though he’s eager to stress his belief that he has much more to learn.
“I think it has been very positive for me as I already have some experience, even though I am young,” Coutinho told Liverpoolfc.com. ”I don’t know anything about football yet — I am still learning but playing in different countries has been important and it has helped.
“I played in Spain and football is played faster there than in Brazil. In Italy, it’s a bit more like here and I think that has helped me, too.”
Coutinho was just 16 when Inter Milan agreed a deal with Vasco da Gama for his services in 2008.
He remained in his homeland until the age of 18 before packing his bags to begin his European adventure at the San Siro.
“Every player wants to come to Europe,” he considers. “It has the best players in the world, the best clubs, and this is where the big championships are played. Every player dreams about playing in Europe and it was the same with me. I was bought by Inter when I was 16, I was a young lad but I don’t regret anything.
“The language is different and football is very different from Italy to Brazil and so that was difficult. I had played all my life — for 11, 12 or 13 years — in Brazil and to move all of a sudden to a new country is very difficult. It was a new culture and to be away from my friends was difficult, but in time I got used to it and now I am here [at Liverpool].”
Upon arriving at Inter, chairman Massimo Moratti is believed to have described him as ‘the future’ of the club.
So does Coutinho feel unrealistic expectations are placed on the shoulders of young players in the modern game?
“I don’t think so,” he said. “When I first arrived they had great expectations, but I think this is normal in football nowadays and it is even good for the player, so that he can feel confident. He feels that people have put confidence in his work.
“Unfortunately it didn’t work there, but today I am very happy here. I hope I can give my best for Liverpool and be happy.”
Though by his own admission his time at Inter did not go as he would have hoped, Brendan Rodgers showed no hesitation in swooping to sign Coutinho during the January transfer window.
The No.10 feels indebted to the boss for the faith he’s shown in his talents.
“When I found out about Liverpool’s interest I was very happy as it is very good to know that people are watching and appreciate your work,” he stated. “I am grateful for that. As soon as I arrived here, not just the manager but everybody at the club has been very nice and it’s helped to relax me.
“It is a great club and like a big family — that is very important for a young player that has just arrived. It leaves me at ease to do the thing I love most, which is to play football.”
That settling process has been greatly assisted by the presence of a South American contingent at Melwood — including compatriot Lucas Leiva.
For a man still getting to grips with the language, the presence of Coutinho’s fellow Brazilian — as well as South Americans Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates – has been invaluable.
“It has been a great help,” he said. “I don’t speak English and I can only speak and understand a little bit of Spanish. Lucas speaks Portuguese and has helped me a lot. He has been like a father to me and that has helped me a lot.
“Suarez and Seba [Coates] have also helped me. If somebody wants to tell me something, when they are around they can help me understand, so it has been very important their presence here for me.”
Now living in the city with his wife, Coutinho is relishing the latest chapter in his footballing journey.
In particular, the forward admits to being bowled over by the heritage and culture of Liverpool FC — and, of course, the support of the fans.
“Anfield is a great stadium — another great stadium where I am having the opportunity to play for a club with a great history,” he concluded. “The fans are great and always giving their support. It makes me very happy. I was very moved [by 'You'll Never Walk Alone'].
“Here it is very different from Brazil and Italy. In every match the fans are there, the stadium is full and the fans shouting. In Brazil, it is not like this and in Italy even less so. It is very moving to see the stadium full and everybody singing. It is great.”
Photo via Liverpoolfc.com