World Cup dream drives Coutinho
Published 16/08/2013 | 17:27
Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho grew up with Brazilian compatriots Ronaldinho and Kaka as his idols and now he wants to follow in their footsteps.
He watched the every move of Ronaldinho, in particular, and marvelled at how he pulled the strings for Barcelona in his pomp.
Coutinho envisaged the day when he too could have a chance to emulate his two heroes.
At Anfield he has been given an ideal platform, and while it may be premature to be thinking about elevating him into a similar category the portents are good. The Brazil-hosted World Cup next summer is in his thoughts, and Coutinho admits it would be a dream to play in the tournament for his country.
In Brendan Rodgers he has a club manager whose 'death by football' mantra means he will enjoy a lot of possession this season.
The crucial factor will be what he does with it but on the evidence of his first four months in England and a handful of pre-season friendlies the omens are good.
Speaking about his heroes, Coutinho told Press Association Sport: "They play more or less my position and they were my inspirations as I was growing up.
"I think both of them were super-excellent players, especially when Ronaldinho played at Barcelona it was like magic. Every time I had a chance I would watch him because he was someone who I looked up to."
Coutinho turned 21 in June and he still has a lot to learn about English football, but he is already seen by fans as a crucial part of the the club's future.
It is a weight of expectation which does not bother a player who scored the Reds' final goal of last season at Anfield in May to cap a promising four months following his arrival from Inter Milan.
Many questioned why Rodgers had spent £8.5million on youngster who had failed to make the grade in Italy, but he quickly showed flashes of a potentially brilliant talent and his progress has continued in pre-season where he has been the club's stand-out player.
The form has singled him out as Liverpool's likely creator-in-chief going into the new Premier League season and it is a role he is more than comfortable with.
"I don't feel any extra pressure," he added ahead of the game against Stoke. "The supporters are always there and that gives me a lot of strength to do my best for my team-mates and the club and to make the fans happy."
He knows Liverpool can be the perfect place to showcase his abilities and, with a longer-term view, could gain him enough recognition to represent his country's senior team - with the added incentive of the World Cup on home soil.
"Of course it is a dream of mine. I need to have a good season at Liverpool, take my chances here and hopefully that would give me a chance of being called up for the national team," he said.
"It would be my biggest step in football and I will do my utmost to be there."
The hustle and bustle of the Premier League may be an unlikely place for a young, slightly-built playmaker to choose to ply his trade but Coutinho welcomes the challenge.
He admits he had problems at Inter, where he moved from Vasco da Gama in 2010 aged 18, and in only his second season he was loaned out to Espanyol.
Spain seemed an ideal location for him to develop, but when Liverpool came calling he leapt at the chance - even if there was no lure of Champions League football.
"It had no weight on my consideration to come to Liverpool," he said. "Obviously we are not where we would like to be which is playing in the Champions League - or even the Europa League - but we as players will do our best in order to be able to be playing in those competitions next season.
"It was a dream for me to play in a big team like Inter but I had tough times there and that was difficult but now my mind is at Liverpool and that is where I want to be."