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How Philippe Coutinho pulls Liverpool's strings

"A wonderful football player," according to Jürgen Klopp, Philippe Coutinho is hungry for his first European trophy as he prepares to steer Liverpool in the final.

Phillipe Coutinho speaking to UEFA.com ahead of the final
Phillipe Coutinho speaking to UEFA.com ahead of the final ©Sportsfile

"There are lots of players with great qualities that could be playing for Barcelona," Neymar said a while back. "One of them is [Philippe] Coutinho." Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, recalled a conversation with Luis Suárez the summer that the Uruguayan left Anfield for the Camp Nou: "'Make sure you look after him,' Luis said of Philippe. That told me how much Suárez rated Coutinho as a player."

Few at Anfield have had reason to doubt the playmaker's ability since he joined the club from Internazionale at the start of 2013, but – now 23 – he is now fulfilling his potential. Horrible to defend against, he slices open opposing teams with incisive passes and offers an additional threat with shots from distance. Under Jürgen Klopp, his decision-making has improved and his off-the-ball efforts are increasingly impressive.

The German manager loves working with him, telling UEFA.com: "Philippe is a wonderful football player, and very young still. He has great technique, no doubt, wonderful shooting technique too, and he's good in tight spaces. But what's most impressed me since I've been here is his work ethic.

Coutinho at Inter in 2011
Coutinho at Inter in 2011©Getty Images

"For the last three, four, five, six or seven weeks he's been at his best level. And that's very important for us. He can decide games by himself, but he's really ready to work hard for the team, and that's what I really like."

It is a run of form that could yet be rewarded with Coutinho's first major trophy since he arrived in Europe from Rio de Janeiro-based Vasco da Gama. "It would be my first title with Liverpool," he told UEFA.com as he looked ahead to the UEFA Europa League final against Sevilla, though personal achievements were very much a secondary priority.

"It's a big competition which would give us a place in another big competition next year," he added, a berth in next season's UEFA Champions League very much on his mind. "What's more, winning trophies is always very important in every player's career and for a club. Here at Liverpool we haven't won a trophy for a while, so we're all focused on the task at hand."

Listless at the start of the season under Brendan Rodgers, the Reds received a huge injection of passion with the arrival of Klopp. "We're improving with every passing day and every match," Coutinho gushed. "You can see that the team are much changed, particularly in terms of our aggression and defending off the ball. That is down to our coach.

"As for my role, what he asks is for me to help out with defending off the ball. Then, when we have it, he gives me freedom to play my game, to move around and create, just like the rest of the players up front."

Coutinho has been involved in some amazing European nights under Klopp; the eliminations of Manchester United, Dortmund and then Villarreal in the knockout phases this season. He feels his duty is to ensure an even more memorable denouement against Sevilla: "Now we need to cap all that by getting a great result in the final."

Watch Liverpool's semi-final win