The time is now. Philippe Coutinho is in his prime and turned 25 on Monday. The Liverpool number ten is rightly seen as crucial to Jürgen Klopp’s plans for the future, but links with a move to Barcelona persist. Every week there seems to be a story with a reheated angle or a quote about the Brazilian international’s future.
Ian Rush shared his confidence that Coutinho would remain at Anfield for at least one more season last week, but is Liverpool ambitious enough to really push for honours next season? Although talented young players are coming through, many players in the first-team squad are in their mid-twenties or beyond. Of the players used regularly by Klopp last season, only Loris Karius, Divock Origi, and Emre Can are under 25.
Coutinho will be action against Australia on Tuesday but had to answer questions about his future. Again. Trying to read into these words is probably ill-advised. They seem as flat and dispassionate as they appear professional and focused. There’s also the reality that with each mercurial performance in midfield, the more he looks like an Andrés Iniesta successor. However, enough about the reality’s developments for now.
"Talking about this is complicated," he responded when asked about his future at Liverpool. "I have a contract with my club and it is long. My focus is on the present and the national team. My focus is here."
The 25-year-old signed a new contract until 2022 in January with no release clause and can look forward to Champions League football next season on the proviso that Liverpool navigate a two-legged qualifier. He should stick around until the 2018 World Cup, but what Liverpool do this summer could go some way to securing the player’s long-term future at the club.
Coutinho arrived at 20 from Internazionale in need of regular minutes and trust for just £8.5 million. O Mágico has been sensational and a firm favourite among Liverpool fans during his time at Anfield. In all likelihood, a departure this summer would prove to be a considerable surprise. However, will his prime years belong to Liverpool or Barcelona?