Focused Coutinho heals Liverpool rifts

London: Philippe Coutinho’s long-term future might lie away from Liverpool, but the Brazil star’s ability to focus on the present has helped heal the wounds from his flirtation with Barcelona.
When Jurgen Klopp’s side travel to Sevilla for a crucial Champions League clash on Tuesday, they will rely on Coutinho to lead their bid to get the win that would book their place in the last 16.
For Coutinho to be at the centre of Liverpool’s season is a testament to the peace-making skills of Klopp and the forward’s refusal to let his failed attempt to force a move to Barcelona make him public enemy number one on Merseyside.
Just two months ago, Coutinho’s relationship with his club and their fans was badly frayed after he handed in a transfer request while Barca tried to convince Liverpool to sell their prize asset with bids rising to over £100 million ($132 million).
Liverpool’s American owners were adamant Coutinho wasn’t for sale at that late stage of the transfer window, prompting mutterings from the 25-year-old’s camp that he was angry with the decision.
Klopp cleverly kept both his employers and the player happy toeing the company line without criticising Coutinho.
When he finally returned to action after an injury-hit start to the season, Coutinho repaid his manager for his diplomacy.
On a red-hot streak of late, Coutinho bagged his fifth goal of the season in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Southampton on Saturday.
It was Coutinho’s fifth strike in his last seven appearances, but the Brazil forward’s value to Liverpool is measured in more than just goals. When Coutinho first arrived at Anfield following his £8.5 million move from Inter Milan in 2013, he believed he was in danger of being pigeon-holed as solely a playmaker.
Quickly adjusting to the unique demands of the frenetic Premier League, Coutinho realised it was important to work on the defensive side of his game.
He also focused on developing a more nuanced understanding of how to thrive in a team structure rather than playing on instinct alone.
“I have grown immensely since I’ve been here,” Coutinho told recently.
“I have become stronger here in every way. Every year, I’ve felt like I’ve taken more on and become better, more complete and mentally prepared, not only with football but life in general.” — AFP