Philippe Coutinho’s rise to prominence has continued over the past year, and he is now widely recognised as one of Europe’s best midfielders. He was even recognised as Brazil’s best player in Europe in 2016 when he was awarded the Samba Gold, beating out friend and countryman Neymar.
Neymar took the award in the last two years, and finished runner-up to Coutinho this time around. In the past, Thiago Silva, Maicon, and Kaka have also won the award. Liverpool’s diminutive playmaker was given the award on Wednesday, and he reflected on what it means to him.
“It means a lot,” Coutinho said of his new trophy. “I’m very happy to know that this past year I have been recognised by many people. It was an important year for me, and I’m very happy to win this award. It was a good year, as a team we played well and we managed to get to two finals.
“Unfortunately we did not win the finals. That was a very difficult time for us to deal with, but this certainly made the group stronger. We started the season very well, at a high level. We all played very well so, of course, 2016 was a good year. I missed a few games at the end, but it was a positive year.”
Now back from that stretch of games he missed to end 2016, Liverpool will be counting on Coutinho to rediscover that 2016 of his that saw him win the Samba Gold over Neymar. In voting, Coutinho recieved a plurality with 32.13% while Neymar had 27.88%. Casemiro, in third, had 13.35%.
Despite Liverpool’s strong start to the current campaign—and their strong finish to 2016—they currently sit fifth, a point off Arsenal and Tottneham and three back of Manchester City. With Manchester United in turn one point back of Liverpool, it’s a tight fight for three places.
Chelsea in first may be out of reach, but the top four isn’t, and if Coutinho can help Liverpool to return to the Champions League it would further entrench his position as one of the best young stars in the game.