There are various levels of confidence and self-possession. It's a kind of spectrum on which one can find everything from the most introspective, publicity-shy wallflower to the brashest, attention-craving, flesh-baring extrovert. (Hi José!) Footballers are typically closer on the scale to our scantily clad friend than his socially inept counterpart. As a genus, they are blessed with a talent that elevates them from the ordinary and as a regrettable result, the history of the game is littered with individuals who took that talent as a valid excuse to ride roughshod over societal conventions, considering themselves above the hoi polloi -- a breed apart.
In a week where Liverpool were unceremoniously handed their posteriors on a platter by the astonishingly talented Cristiano Ronaldo, this idea has been resonating in your scribbler's troubled facsimile of a mind. The Portuguese force of nature is rightly considered to be in a Rodgersian conversation with Lionel Messi as to who might be considered the world's finest footballer, and a failure to admire his unique combination of skill and athleticism says more about your own partisan leanings than you might care to admit, but the unctuous manner and absurd posturing of this thoroughly modern sporting icon renders him very difficult to like.
Recently, in a comically botched attempt at false modesty, the Madrid man dismissed talk of the forthcoming Clásico as simply a face-off between himself and the Argentinian maestro. "I am not going to play against Messi, I am going to play against Barcelona," he insisted. It sounds good until you give it a second glance. He is going to play Barcelona. Him. A perfect illustration of the kind of casual egotism that is only matched in the modern game by his countryman and fellow narcissist, Jose Mourinho.
By contrast, Liverpool's best performer over the last two games, the impishly gifted Phillipe Coutinho, is a far more amiable and humble character, giving the lie to the unfair categorization of modern footballers and illustrating, along with the falsely maligned likes of Daniel Sturridge, that dismissing them all as egomaniacal preeners is a lazy red top stereotype. Coutinho, although affable and unassuming, is more than aware of his value to the team and has a fierce conviction about his ability in his preferred position. Whilst subtly reminding his manager of where that position is, he also soothed the angst of those inclined towards panic, insisting that this new side is very much in the evolutionary stage.
"I've always felt confident," the tonsorially impressive 22 year old averred. "Football is a team game and everyone has their own responsibilities. My role encompasses creating goal-scoring opportunities and scoring goals myself. Many people may see it as a task of higher responsibility. However, I've always been ready and prepared for it.
"We've been getting to know each other little by little. Each striker has their own style and training sessions help me understand how they prefer the ball to reach them. In my position, it's important that I create clear opportunities for them. I have to adapt my style to all strikers - as does any player who is in charge of playing in the No.10 role. We have to create open chances regardless of who the strikers are."
The creative Brazilian is not, however, blind to the problems that have become glaringly manifest so far this campaign. His own form, imperious in the comparative ease of the team's pre-season fixtures, took a dramatic and inexplicable nose-dive which resulted in him losing a starting berth. Against Harry Redknapp's side and against Carlo Ancelotti's charges, Coutinho looked a man transformed, adding a vigour and strength to his silken skills in possession. If Liverpool are to shake off the current malaise which has dogged the club, they will surely be reliant on the uncanny vision and well-timed goals of their number 10.
"We haven't had a good start to the current season. We all acknowledge the team are not currently in our best form. It's very important that we find the same tempo and intensity from last season and the Hull game will be an opportunity for us to show that we can have a solid and convincing performance. This game will be really important for us and everyone is focused on playing better and winning again.
"We're all concentrated on having a good display on Saturday. It would be important to have a run of games like last season's, when we won 11 consecutive matches, as this would give the squad confidence. Our first step to achieve that is by delivering good performances again - this is, in fact, the main thing and wins will come naturally when it happens, as they did last season."
On Saturday, Liverpool will look to shake off the embarrassment of the comprehensive midweek defeat and the ensuing Balotelli-centric negativity that has dominated the media's coverage since. With the squad's defensive cohort currently bidding to out do each other in the ineptitude stakes, this will be no easy achievement. The club seems utterly best by myriad issues and we can only hope that the stultifying negativity of many fans does not infect the already skittish players.
Brendan Rodgers seemed to signal his seriousness about extending the run of wins in the Premier League to a modest three, when he withdrew both Coutinho and Henderson from the proceedings with a considerable chunk of the Champions League clash remaining. To symmetrically conclude with a reference to the theme of egotism, all fans of the Redmen will be hoping for some brilliance from those two and their under-pressure teammates lest Steve Bruce finish the day with a head as metaphorically inflated as it is in all it's literal corpulent glory.