In 2010, Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti said of Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho, "He can be the future of Inter."
From the Metro:
Liverpool's move for Inter Milan midfielder Philippe Coutinho is in danger of being hijacked by ambitious Southampton.
The Saints' new boss Mauricio Pochettino is a big fan of the Brazillian schemer and, according to reports in Italy, is ready to meet Inter's £10 million asking price.
Liverpool were in pole position to land the 20-year-old and are thought to be prepared to pay £8 million to get their man, after an initial offer of around £5 million was turned down.
So what makes Coutinho so special? And why would Inter already sell the player its president once predicted might be the future of the team?
The latter question may simply be an economic one, as Inter could cash in for a player who has only made 12 total appearances and just four starts for the team in all competitions this season.
But Coutinho still has a remarkable amount of potential, and at a squad like Liverpool he would be given far more playing time and find himself in a system that would highlight his many talents. For the Reds, he seems like a natural fit to play the attacking midfielder role behind the striker in Brendan Rodgers' system.
Capable of always delivering that special through ball that penetrates opposing defences, at Inter he has developed his tactical awareness.
His versatility has seen him deployed in a number of different positions. He can play as a forward, on the left, on the right or behind the strikers. He can offer something in each position.
Never providing the opponent with a reference point, Coutinho is difficult to mark and loves nothing more that to run at defenders. His off the ball movements have improved too with the player regularly seen pressing his opponent to win back possession or positioning himself intelligently to interrupt the other team's passing rhythm.
Coutinho has the creativity and flair possessed by his Brazilian countrymen, but his time at Espanyol and Inter has rounded him into a more complete and strategic player.
His natural skills are impressive. He has excellent speed, controls the ball well, possesses top-notch vision and, when he is on form, can dismantle a defense by taking on defenders and bombarding them with incisive passing.
He's also bulked up during his time at Italy, which is a major plus, since one of his biggest downsides is that he can be bullied off the ball.
And his potential. Oh, his potential.
Liverpool fans might lament his limited play at Inter this season, but injuries have slowed his development some. Still, he's just 20 years old. His upside is immense, his versatility is impressive and his shortcomings—inconsistency in his finishing, the ability to be pushed off the ball—can be improved upon.
But his pace, dribbling prowess, vision and technical skills are all things that can't be taught, and should ensure the player will be excellent at Anfield, should Liverpool land him.
Liverpool did well to add Daniel Sturridge to offer some depth at forward. Now Coutinho could fill the void atop the midfield trio that Rodgers had hoped to remedy this summer by signing Gylfi Sigurdsson, before the player spurned the Reds to join Tottenham.
It remains to be seen if Inter will let go of its future. But if the team decides to take the money and run, Liverpool would do well to align its own future with Coutinho.
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