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Family Matters

As the season stretches out ahead, Philippe Coutinho, after a disappointing start, will lean on the support of his "family" at Anfield and seek to recapture the mesmeric form which has worried Liverpool's Premier League opposition since his arrival.

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Phil hugs were the best hugs...
Phil hugs were the best hugs...
Clint Hughes

With the neophilia that is a common trait of the modern football fan, it does not take long for the sheen to dim on the latest sparkling talent. Although they are often loyal to a fault, the inherent ruthlessness of the modern game and the inescapable harshness of the transcience of time, mean that football fans always have one eye on the future. When Brendan Rodgers made Philippe Coutinho a Liverpool player back in January 2013, he was a wonderfully unknown and exciting prospect. In the interim, the creative Brazilian has proved himself to be amongst the English games brightest talents and his form in Liverpool's title tilt was beguiling.

However, a poor opening day performance, in which he was substituted having been utterly stifled by Southampton has meant that some jittery sorts are already pontificating about his value to the side as a starter as they blink, mouths agape, in the dazzling shimmer of the latest superstars to be linked with a future at Anfield. Nobody could blame the supporters of this resurgent behemoth of a club for being a little thrilled to see some genuine world stars considering the idea of a future at Anfield. There is no version of human existence in which the unhinged brilliance of the insouciant Mario Balotelli or the lethal muscularity of the magnificently maned Radamel Falcao are not thrilling to contemplate but frankly, for this scribbler at least, the adroitness, flair and élan of the likes of Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge are as stirring to the blood as any massively expensive import.

In our understandable haste to embrace the titillation of the new, we must take stock of the delights that currently surround us. Philippe Coutinho, with his gliding majesty, visionary passing and new-found ability to actually shoot on target is one such treasure. The man himself has recently been taking stock after a comparatively meteoric rise ran into it's first two barriers. Last season, despite the spirit-shocking form of the diminutive number ten, Liverpool fell just short of the ultimate prize, as the Premier League title ultimately went to the nouveau riche Mancunians in blue.

That galling disappointment was followed by the somewhat more inevitable revelation that Coutinho would not be part of the Brazil squad for the World Cup. On reflection, that was an even worse move from Luis Felipe Scolari than it seemed at the time with the Selecao looking remarkably short of creativity. As the yellow shirted home side laboured, hacked uncharacteristically at their opponents and lacked a maestro to unlock the defences they faced, Coutinho cheered his countrymen from the stands while a few ersatz versions of him failed to produce the ingenuity that he had provided for Liverpool since his arrival.

Thankfully, Coutinho himself appears to be a very phlegmatic character and his philosophical attitude to missing the World Cup is admirable. For the gifted attacker, there are other priorities and at Anfield he claims to have found the comfort, encouragement and security of a family. In a cynical age it is all too common to hear sneering at such a concept, but if those inclined towards contemptuous mockery ever stepped away from their keyboards they might actually have enough life experience in different environments to relate to the idea. It is marvellously edifying to hear the impish forward speak of the welcoming and humble environment he entered after leaving Inter Milan.

"I've improved my confidence quite a bit," Coutinho told Liverpoolfc.com. "It is very important, as a player can only give his best when he has confidence in himself. Playing consecutive games with the first team [from the beginning] was also helpful. I found a family when I first arrived here. This club really is like a family and this helped me feel very comfortable when I first came to Liverpool. Playing alongside great players such as our captain, Steven Gerrard, and seeing how simple, humble and hard-working people they are also helped me learn and feel comfortable here.

"In all honesty I did not have many hopes of being called up for this World Cup as I hadn't been named in the squads prior to the tournament. I tried not to raise my expectations because I knew it would be difficult to happen. One of my dreams was - and still is - to play at a World Cup. But in the end I was there supporting Brazil and now I'll try to work harder at Liverpool to get my chance with the Brazilian national team I'm constantly trying to grow and show improvement. It's important to frequently show something new as there are so many players in constant competition in football."

Coutinho's words bring us full-circle to the thrill of the new, the importance of constant regeneration and transmutation in the kind of harsh environment that will not tolerate staleness for long. With a player of the Brazilian's artistry and panache to call upon, Brendan Rodgers will not lack for fresh ideas on the field of play. Surrounded by the similarly youthful brilliance of Sterling, Sturridge and Jordan Henderson, prompted and supported by the experience of Steven Gerrard and perhaps even aided in attack by one of the two aforementioned big name targets that fans so crave, Philippe Coutinho will no doubt do his "family" proud in the campaign to come.

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