Philippe Coutinho is 23 and should be entering the prime years of his career. He scored his first senior international goal for Brazil in a win over Mexico in a pre-Copa América friendly, and what a goal it was. Liverpool fans may have been cowering in a curiously paradoxical delight at the sight of Coutinho excelling for the Seleção, proud that a Liverpool player is doing well for his country but fearing that this could be the beginning of the end of Coutinho's association with Liverpool.
Liverpool have been linked with a variety of players, but it is likely to be the young man wearing number ten who will be the club's talisman next season. Just as Brendan Rodgers understood that the talents of Luis Suárez should be built around in pursuit of success, any incoming players will have to gel with and complement the outstanding Brazilian schemer. Coutinho, though, is clear on the failures of last season with a determination to be part of a group that will not fail this
"I think it is clear that Liverpool did not meet the objectives we wanted to this season," Coutinho said when asked about the past season. "At the least we wanted to make sure that we were playing Champions League football again, but that didn't happen. We didn't start well and that affected our confidence, but we will be working hard over the summer to make sure we are where we should be.
"We all know where this club should be, and that is playing and competing at the highest level. It was fantastic to be recognized for my personal performances this season, but I don't want to think on that too much because like I say, we did not reach our objectives. I hope next season to play well again and perform at the same level, but what is most important is that the team plays well and we reach our goals."
The Brazilian international's club form has secured a place in a squad tasked with shaking off a harrowing World Cup semi-final exit, but Coutinho remains "confident" of success at this summer's Copa América. His attitude shines through his comments on the past season as well as his behaviour since he joined the club in January 2012.
It's hard to begrudge such a player success whether he stays at Liverpool in the long-term or not, but the immediate focus is playing for the national team—something that Coutinho describes as "a dream" with typical humility. The pressure playing for Brazil is great, and some of the biggest names in football have struggled with the weight of the famous yellow and green jersey. Can they recover from World Cup disappointment?
"The result of the World Cup is still in the minds of the Brazilian people, and this is a perfect chance to put things right," said the tigerish and creative attacking midfielder. "I am pleased that I have scored for Brazil, but I know it is no guarantee I will play. Of course I want to play, I would love to start every game, but everybody is fighting very hard for their place. Whatever role I play I just want to do well for the team, and help take the Copa America back to Brazil."