After missing out on the last three games with a strained hamstring, Philippe Coutinho is expected to make the bench against FC Sion in the Europa League tonight, with a substitute appearance in the second half likely with an eye to getting him ready for league action on the weekend.
One person who will be keeping an interested eye on him when he does get back into the action will be Lucio, Brazil’s ever-present central defender through the first decade of the century and Coutinho’s former teammate at Inter Milan. And he’s expecting a lot more out of Coutinho. He’s expecting world class.
"I’m very happy he’s having success at Liverpool," Lucio, who recently joined FC Goa in an effort to prolong his career, told Sky Sports. "There is the potential to be the best player in the world, of that I have no doubt. It will depend on what happens around him, but he is only going to get better."
Lucio took Coutinho under his wing when he arrived at Inter Milan a highly touted teenager, and he watched the young Brazilian’s struggles first hand. For a time, it looked as though those struggles would get the best of Coutinho, but Lucio was convinced all along that if he got the chance, he would thrive.
"When he was at Inter, he wasn’t playing and we got closer," continued the 37-year-old defender. "We lived nearby to each other. My family got to know his, and gave all his support, and everything that he is doing now is down to his marriage and family. His attitude is perfect."
As to where that attitude takes Coutinho next—other than to become one of the best, perhaps even the best, players in the world—Lucio thinks Liverpool is the right place for him, at least for the foreseeable future. That after his struggles at Inter, he’s found a place that can provide a platform for him to excel.
"I think that’s a personal decision for him," added Lucio when asked about Coutinho’s future and links to a few early, tenuous links to Barcelona. "But Barcelona have a lot of great players, and that could put a shade on his play. Liverpool is the right place for him to become the best."