Having already been named Liverpool’s player of the month in October, January, and February, there’s little doubt that Philippe Coutinho has been the club’s best player this season. Given he’s the early frontrunner to take honours again in April, the truth is that it’s really not even close.
Other players have been important. Simon Mignolet’s improved form and Lucas Leiva’s reintroduction to the starting eleven have been integral to the club’s second half revival. Martin Skrtel has been his reliable self from the first day of the season, while in recent months Mamadou Sakho has nailed down a role beside him.
Meanwhile, youngsters Emre Can and Raheem Sterling have frequently impressed. No player, though, has been as good as often as Coutinho. Now, he has been rewarded by being named to the shortlist for Premier League player of the season, and though he may not be favoured to win it all, he certainly deserves the nomination.
The final six is made up of Coutinho along with Chelsea duo Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, and Tottenham’s Harry Kane. By most accounts, the clear frontrunner is Hazard, though if teammate Costa splits the vote it could open up the chance of an upset.
Now 22 years old, Coutinho has come into his own for Liverpool this season, becoming the rather unexpected heir to Luis Suarez’ title as the club’s most dangerous attacker. With Steven Gerrard’s midfield influence on the wane and the captain heading to MLS at season’s end, Coutinho has also taken over as chief creator.
He may never score at the rate of a player like Suarez—or like fellow candidates Sanchez, Kane, and Hazard—but his skill with the ball at his feet, his vision, and his positional flexibility are unquestionable. He is also an underrated team player, tactically astute, and a hard worker without the ball.
Having arrived from Inter Milan for £8.5M in 2013, Coutinho recently signed a new deal to keep him at Liverpool through 2020. Coutinho was also named—along with Raheem Sterling, Hazard, de Gea, Kane, and Thibaut Courtois—as one of the six nominees for young player of the season.