Pochettino talks up Coutinho's quality
Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho has similar qualities to Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi, according to Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino.
The 20-year-old Brazilian has enjoyed a fine start to life at Anfield, having joined from Inter Milan during the January transfer window. It was a time in which Coutinho was heavily linked with a move to Southampton, whose manager Pochettino knows the midfielder well after coaching him during a loan spell at Espanyol last season.
The Saints boss was coy when asked whether he had tried to lure Coutinho to the south coast, but more forthcoming when asked about the quality of the player in line to start at St Mary's on Saturday. "What has happened in the past, happened in the past," Pochettino said.
"We can't change it or do anything about it. Actually, talking about it is not going to do anything positive either. Philippe is a Brazilian player and, as it happens with most Brazilians, he has a special magic in his feet.
"Aside from the magic that he has, he also has an amazing work rate and that makes us doubt whether he fits the mould of a typical Brazilian player or a European one because his work ethic is outstanding.
"What is important about him is he is a good lad, a good kid - a great, humble person. I do think Coutinho has that same quality that Ronaldinho and Messi have, but he has much to prove yet. What is really clear to me is that Coutinho is a really responsible player - really dedicated and responsible to his own players."
Before Coutinho and his Liverpool team-mates come to town, Southampton have to answer a Football Association charge for their behaviour in last weekend's 0-0 draw at Norwich. The club have been charged with failing to control their players after referee Mark Clattenburg ruled that Luke Shaw fouled Grant Holt just inside the penalty area.
Artur Boruc kept out Holt's subsequent spot-kick but Saints' players continued to protest after the final whistle and were joined on the pitch by Pochettino. The club have until 4pm on Friday to respond to the charge, which the Argentinian suggests is harsh.
"I don't really feel bad about it because I had full respect for the referee," Pochettino said. "I went to speak with him and perhaps I should have waited until he came to the dugout to speak to him, but I was always on speaking terms. That is the kind of person I am - a spontaneous person.
"I could be at fault a little bit for actually entering the field, but I must say I was on speaking terms with the referee. He spoke back to me and there was never anything above that. Perhaps I should have waited for him to come back to the dugout but I was defending the interests of my club and he was defending his job as well."