To say that Philippe Coutinho burned a few bridges on Merseyside over summer would be something of an understatement.
The little Brazilian broke the hearts of Liverpool fans not only in the city, but the world over, when he declared his desire to leave Liverpool amid three big money offers from the Catalan side.
However, after what can only be described as a full-blown saga, Liverpool and its owners dug in deep and vowed not to be moved and Coutinho remains a Liverpool player.
He has since, according to Jürgen Klopp, has shown an excellent attitude in training and has been working hard to get back up to match fitness after his long lay-off with a back problem.
But it will take a lot more than putting in the hard yards behind closed doors to endear him back into the hearts of Liverpool supporters.
In an ideal world, Phil would come out in the open and apologise publically for his behaviour over the summer (which left a lot to be desired), and nail his colours to the mast, declaring he’d do his uttermost for Liverpool in the coming season.
We don’t live in an ideal world.
The reality of the situation is, both Liverpool and Coutinho know that he is at the club until at least January, and it will do him no favours dispel any preference of a move to Spain for fear of pushing Barcelona too far out of his grasp.
🤔 This man to start tonight? pic.twitter.com/yaFDuWVY8N
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) September 13, 2017
What is likely to happen is that he simply gets on with his day job, trains hard, puts all of this to one side and just focuses on playing football. If this means that he replicates or even betters some of his scintillating form of last season, then I’m sure that this would go some way to act as an apology for many a Kopite.
Many of those fans are hankering not only for more of the same from Coutinho, but are also almost demanding a season of similar dynamism and jaw-dropping quality to that which Luis Suarez graced Anfield with during his final season at the club.
El Pistolero lit up the Premier League during his final months on Merseyside, scoring goals for fun and just generally adding a sprinkling of world class football to a Liverpool side which came oh so close to finally getting their hands on the league trophy after more than two decades of disappointment.
Now, Liverpool fans seem to be calling for a similar feat from Coutinho, with a feeling of inevitability looming over him that he will not be wearing the red of Liverpool for too much longer at all.
While it would be nice to see Coutinho do something equally spectacular to his fellow South American, building up this expectation is a dangerous game to play.
There are many questioning if Coutinho will indeed be the same player as before this transfer saga started, which could well turn out to be true – and that would be an even bigger disappointment if we set ourselves up to believe he’s going to tear the Premier League apart this season.
However, what we can and rightfully should expect is a season of hard graft where Coutinho gives his all for the club he supposedly still loves and wants to be a part of.
With this, we can expect some more magic moments that he has routinely produced in recent years.
That solo goal against Everton at Anfield last season. His annual wonder strike against Manchester City. Providing the moment that breaks the deadlock in tight games.
There is no doubting Coutinho’s ability; he’s grown into a fantastic player during his time at Liverpool and rightly warrants the admiration of other big clubs.
Performances like this for the remainder of this season would definitely go a long way to ensuring the fans forgive Coutinho (at least in part) for what has been a very ugly episode entirely.
His head has definitely been turned, but with Klopp at the helm, it is important to note that his head will have been firmly put back on facing the right direction to ensure that he does his best for the team from here on in.
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) September 13, 2017
Steven Gerrard said in his autobiography that when he was talking to Luis Suarez about interest from Aresnal and Barcelona that he convinced Suarez to give Liverpool one more year as if Barca come after you once, you can pretty much guarantee that they will be back for you again in the future.
It happened during Gerrard’s career, with a number of approaches from Spain and Italy turned down by the iconic number eight – and there’s no doubt that this will be the same in the case of Coutinho.
But a season is a long time, and a lot can change during the course of a season.
It’s also not beyond reason that enjoying a successful season this year with Liverpool could change Coutinho’s mind, and convince him to stay with them for a little longer. Could a strong January transfer window make him open his eyes to the Club’s ambition?
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While it looks likely that one day, Coutinho will leave Liverpool with Barcelona looking like they would be his preferred destination, for now he remains a crucial part of Jürgen Klopp’s squad, especially with the return of Champions League football.
So Phil, if you’re listening: all we want is for you to pull your socks up and get on with it and give this team your all. Liverpool has given you so much, it’s time you really reciprocated that love by giving us your absolute best for however much longer you’re with us for.
Then, we will probably wish you a fond farewell should your ‘dream move’ ever materialise.