It’s safe to say Philippe Coutinho ruffled a few feathers over this past summer, as despite pushing very hard for the move, he was unable to convince Liverpool to allow him to join Barcelona. Ever since the door finally closed on that deal, the questions have always been about how long it would take for Coutinho to reestablish the status quo ante, both from a footballing perspective as well as in terms of his relationship with his manager, his teammates, and supporters.
The signs are positive from a footballing perspective. Having spent some time on the sidelines during the preseason, Coutinho’s minutes have understandably had to be managed. But when given the opportunity to play, the midfielder has quickly settled back into the role of harassing opposition defenders. His excellent free kick goal against Leicester City will serve as notice to the rest of the league that they shouldn’t count on Coutinho being rusty for too much longer.
As for the relationships with others at the club, those don’t seem worse for wear. A few eyebrows may have been raised when Steven Gerrard, currently calling the shots for Liverpools U-18 side while doing the pundit thing on the side, mentioned that he used to tell Coutinho to keep away from him. This, as it turned out, was not an admission of any long standing enmity from when they were teammates, but rather a compliment from the former skipper.
“He's impossible to defend against,” said Gerrard. “When I used to train against him, I'd hate it if I was on the opposite five-a-side team. I wouldn't go near him. And sometimes I'd say to him: Keep away from me!”
“He can stand you up, he can go both ways, he's got such a low centre of gravity,” added Gerrard after the match against Leicester City. “He's sharp, he's quick and he's two or three steps ahead of defenders. He's so, so clever.”
Even acknowledging that the comments were made partly in jest, it’s high praise indeed for Coutinho, given that Gerrard was never one to shy away from a challenge, whether during an actual match or in training. Some of the abilities to which Gerrard alluded were already on display in the 3-2 victory over the foxes. There’s still a great deal of work to be done, but Liverpool’s opposition might also be wishing that Coutinho kept away from them in the near future.