A year after he moved from the fringes of Inter Milan to England, Philippe Coutinho finds himself one of the first names on the team sheet at Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool. When Inter paid Vasco de Gama £4M for the then 16-year-old attacking midfielder, the expectations for Coutinho were massive, but aside from a brief spell under Rafa Benitez he never looked likely to live up to them at the San Siro.
After spending a year at Liverpool, the now 21-year-old is back on track to becoming the player everybody thought he would become, and for almost any national side but Brazil's he would be a likely pick for next summer's World Cup. And while two goals and two assists in 16 league matches this season isn't quite the pace he managed when he first arrived at Liverpool, he remains key to an incisive attack.
"It's a year that went very quickly, and I am living in a very happy moment," Coutinho told LFCTV, reflecting on his first year in England as the anniversary of his signing—a little more than a week away on January 26th—approaches. "What surprised me most was the way the players are made to feel at home, and I am grateful to the city, my teammates, and the club for the way I was received."
With Brendan Rodgers comparing him to ex-Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric and saying he expects more goals from the nimble attacker, expectations will be higher for Coutinho as he enters his second year for a Liverpool side that will be disappointed with anything less than a top four finish. Coutinho, though, is determined to continue improving to become a truly great player—and he knows scoring a few more goals will need to be a part of that.
"I want to continue improving," he added, "and look forward to working harder—harder on what I need to do to be considered a great player. I think I have improved with my positioning on the pitch because sometimes I play on the wings and other times in the middle. I have improved my knowledge a lot more and have worked harder on my finishing, [but] sometimes my positioning [in and around the box] is not the best and I need to improve that to score more goals."
Liverpool already have England's top goalscorer in Luis Suarez, the best player on the planet on current form, plus Daniel Sturridge sat tied third despite having missed a third of the season through injury. If Coutinho can start burying a few of his chances as he hopes to, Liverpool might just find themselves unseating Manchester City as England's most exciting—and dangerous—attacking force. Tough a task at it seems, it might even get Coutinho into the Brazil squad, too.