Greatest Transfers #12: The Little Magician

Welcome back to another Greatest Transfers, the series where we countdown the fifteen greatest transfers in the history of Liverpool Football Club. If you missed our honourable mentions, 15, 14 and 13 then I suggest you catch up by clicking the links.

We’ve reached number 12, where we find the most recent transfer that will make our list. Brendan Rodgers’ transfer record at Liverpool is spotty at best but his finest piece of transfer business came in January 2013 when he gave Internazionale £8.5 million for little Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho.

One of many Brazilian prodigies, Coutinho was actually snapped up from his first club Vasco da Gama in 2008 when he was just 16 by Inter. Due to Brazilian regulations though, he’d have to remain in his homeland until he was 18. His arrival in Italy coincided with the summer after Inter’s treble winning season with manager Jose Mourinho just having left for Real Madrid. Fortunately, new boss Rafael Benitez liked Coutinho although the same couldn’t be said about the Inter team’s feelings on Benitez.

While Coutinho made a somewhat encouraging start, Inter stuttered under Rafa and by January he was gone. Coutinho’s opportunities began to dry up as Inter began to change managers on a far too frequent basis. Despite the fact that Coutinho made his international debut for Brazil in late 2010, he only appeared in 11 league games in his first season. His second saw even fewer chances to play which facilitated a loan to Spanish side Espanyol in January 2012. He played well and helped Mauricio Pochettino’s side move clear of relegation.

His return to Inter was again disappointing as he rarely played meaning that, by January 2013, he was suitably frustrated. Pochettino was interested in signing Coutinho for his new side Southampton but, luckily, Rodgers swooped in and completed the cut-price deal for Phil.

The move was perfect for club and player. Coutinho settled into life in the Premier League effortlessly with his creativity and trickery helping Liverpool look much improved in the second half of Rodgers’ first season in charge. He was a key cog in the side as the club came agonisingly close to winning the title in 2013/14 as he played nearly 90% of the club’s games that season. He may not have been the star but the game time aided him for the next two seasons.

2014/15 saw Liverpool struggle without Luis Suarez but Coutinho was superb and established himself as one of Liverpool’s stars. The following season was another disappointing one for Liverpool as Rodgers was sacked and Jurgen Klopp appointed but Coutinho was sensational, hitting 12 goals in all competitions. His excellent form continued into 2016/17 as he helped the club return into the top four of the Premier League.

While the last four and a half years have seen plenty of changes at Anfield, the one constant has been the unwavering quality and brilliance of our Brazilian maestro. Brendan Rodgers may not get huge amounts of credit from some of the Liverpool faithful but he deserves full credit for being clever enough to secure a deal for Coutinho and one so cheap as well.

With consistent reports of PSG and Barcelona sniffing around him and 181 appearances and 42 goals to his name to date, that £8.5 million may just be the best bit of value Liverpool ever got.