Video: Watch highlights of Philippe Coutinho's amazing individual performance in Dortmund rout
Philippe Coutinho ensures South American flavour remains at Anfield
The Uruguayan flag is no longer swirled proudly on The Kop, but a samba beat is maintaining the South American influence at Anfield.
Liverpool’s search for a replacement for Luis Suarez is ongoing, but the talismanic influence of Brazilian Philippe Coutinho during this pre-season is proof how swiftly the coronation of another idol follows the abdication of the last.
Coutinho offered the home fans a glimpse of what he’d taken on tour to America in Liverpool’s final warm-up game ahead of the new season, an impressive 4-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund. The 22-year-old added to the first half goals of Daniel Sturridge and debutant Dejan Lovren. The fourth for Jordan Henderson, in which Coutinho and Sterling carved open the German defence with a sequence of one touch passes, was so exquisite it was wasted on a friendly.
Where Suarez replaced Torres, so Coutinho is capable of filling the void left by the Barcelona striker. He won’t score as many as Suarez, but there is increasing evidence his name will be chanted loudest, acclaimed as Anfield’s supreme creator. He left to a standing ovation after running the game for 72 minutes.
It was his sumptuous pass for Sturridge prompting the first ovations of this campaign ten minutes in.
Sturridge’s gave the defence splitting pass the finish it deserved. Coutinho had already offered similar service to Sterling on four minutes only for keeper Mitchell Langerak to save with his feet.
An approving purr soundtracked Liverpool’s performances here last season and the audio in this game underlined it was not exclusively due to Suarez.
Coutinho has been the subject of numerous comparisons from his manager Brendan Rodgers. He sees him as an architect, a chemist, a magician and, most recently, the ‘brains’ of the team. The youngster adopts so many characters he puts one in mind of that old children’s TV character Mr Benn.
There is ample evidence his progress went so far under the radar over the last 12 months he could also be compared to a stealth fighter. He was barely mentioned when the young player of the year candidates were debated, and the Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari never saw fit to travel to England and heed the advice of Rodgers regarding World Cup inclusion.
That omission will be Liverpool’s gain, Coutinho admitting in interview over the weekend he was distressed to be overlooked.
He said he felt ‘anger’, “not because I’m selfish, but because I could have offered something.
“I’m going to use this anger and push myself to my limits. I saw how Luis (Suárez) was a maniac in training. At this point, my body and mind feel like clay. I will mold it the way I envision, and I will use my fire to make them harder.
“I’m working closely with Pedro Philippou (trainer) and (Ryland) Morgans (physio). I look at my team-mates too. I work with Joe (Allen) sometimes to see how he uses his body to protect the ball. He’s amazing at it.”
There was more elegance than angst in Coutinho’s performance here, and he grabbed the goal he deserved four minutes into the second half, picked out by Sterling and neatly tucking the ball past Langerak at The Kop end.
This was not just a preparation for the new season but a rehearsal for Liverpool welcoming the European elite back to Anfield.
Dortmund are somewhat of a prototype club for the modern Liverpool, taking on wealthier rivals and administering a transfer policy designed at buying potential, developing it and then ultimately bowing to market forces when the larger cheques are waved.
Jurgen Klopp and Rodgers attended the same philosophy classes and the German was respectful of Liverpool history as he touched the ‘This is Anfield’ sign before kick-off
While Rodgers selected the side likely to start against Southampton next weekend, Dortmund’s heavyweights such as Mats Hummels and Marco Reus were absent. That gives the result necessary perspective.
Liverpool gave debuts to defensive recruits Javier Manquillo and Lovren who enjoyed the serenity of the occasion to ease into new surroundings.
Lovren evidently loves the Anfield Road End of this stadium. He scored a winning header for Southampton in that spot last season and recreated the moment after 14 minutes, pouncing onto Steven Gerrard’s corner.
Lovren has been signed to add muscle and volume to Liverpool’s defence. That is where Rodgers must evolve his side, as even without Suarez there is little to suggest they won’t create the same volume of opportunities. Their prospects will be defined by their ability to win games by slender margins as much as dish out hammerings like this.
There was only encouragement at the start of what remains the post-Suarez era, Sterling, Sturridge and Coutinho indicating Liverpool will still be thrilling to watch.
Candidates to replace Suarez in the affection of Liverpool supporters are plentiful. Just one word of caution: if Coutinho plays like this when the meaningful action starts – and adds goals to his game – his imminent new contract will need a clause similar to the £75 million demanded for Suarez.
Liverpool: Mignolet; Manquillo, Lovren, Skrtel, Johnson; Gerrard, Henderson; Can, Coutinho, Sterling; Sturridge
Borussia Dortmund: Langerak; Piszczek, Ginter, Papastathopoulos, Schmelzer; Kehl, Kirch, Jojic, Ramos, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang
Liverpool subs: Lucas for Can (45); Enrique for Johnson (62); Ibe for Coutinho (72); Lambert for Sturridge (76); Allen for Henderson (80); Kelly for Manquillo (85)
Dortmund subs: Dong-Won for Mkhitaryan (64); Bandowski for Aubameyang (71); Amini for Jojic (76); Knystock for Papastathopoulos (81); Sarr for Schmetzer (81)