Brendan Rodgers hails Philippe Coutinho as ‘just magical’ as Liverpool cruise to a 4-0 win over Borussia Dortmund in their final pre-season game
The young Brazilian was a constant threat to the German side throughout Sturridge opened the scoring as Liverpool dominated Dortmund in 4-0 win Lovren scored soon after from a corner on his first Anfield appearance Phillippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson completed the rout after the break.
Liverpool concluded their preparations for the new campaign with a victory and performance that suggests life without Luis Suarez might not be so daunting.
Inspired the craft and dancing feet of Philippe Coutinho, a player whom Brendan Rodgers refers to as his team’s ‘brain’, Liverpool flattened Borussia Dortmund 4-0 to show they are primed to burst out of the blocks when the real business begins next week.
Southampton will be the opposition in seven days’ time and new Saints boss Ronald Koeman, who was sat in the Anfield Directors’ Box with former Liverpool stalwart Sammy Lee, will have been given plenty to think about ahead of the opening game.
Brendan Rodgers need not fear. If he wondered who would provide Liverpool’s magic after the sale of Luis Suarez, at least he still has ‘David Blaine’.
That, thanks to Daniel Sturridge, is the moniker of Philippe Coutinho. According to the England striker, Coutinho is a magician with a ball at his feet and after watching the Brazilian tear Borussia Dortmund to shreds, Rodgers was only too happy to embrace that theme.
Replacing Suarez like-for-like is something Rodgers admits is impossible but he has an idea of how to keep Liverpool a creative, vibrant, attacking force and — judging by this swaggering display — Coutinho is crucial to that master plan.
Deployed in a central role just behind Sturridge and flanked by Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling, Coutinho was the architect of a friendly victory that sent Liverpool bounding into the new campaign, as he provided the assist for Sturridge’s 10th-minute opener and scored one of his own.
Dejan Lovren — who excelled on his debut following his £20million move from Southampton — and Henderson also found the target but afterwards Rodgers reflected on ‘a successful pre-season’ while reserving a eulogy for Coutinho.
‘He is so gifted and the fans appreciated it because of the level of the opponent,’ said Rodgers. ‘His ability is just magical. His ability to get out of tight situations, his view of the game. That’s his best position too — playing between the lines, he tempts defenders out.
‘You saw that with the ball he played around the corner for the first goal. It’s about sustainability with him now. He’s lit up this country with his quality. We are now going on to a big stage in Champions League and he will have chance to show that there, too.’
Dortmund looked short of condition and presented far less of a challenge without star names Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan and Mats Hummels, but that could not detract from Coutinho’s quality.
The weight of his passing, speed of thought and ability to deliver the perfect ball really impressed. It was no wonder that when he was replaced in the 71st minute the Kop gave him a standing ovation.
Liverpool will look to renew his terms during the coming campaign — no problems are envisaged and he still has four years on the deal he signed when arriving from Inter Milan in January 2013 — and Rodgers believes Coutinho is now about to really make his mark.
‘He will show at that (Champions League) level that he is a top player,’ said Rodgers. ‘I see him over the next four or five years becoming a real talent in world football.
Curious to think, then, that Brazil overlooked him for the World Cup. where his guile and invention could have made a difference. Instead, he was forced to spend his summer watching helplessly from afar.
‘I felt anger (at not being selected),’ Coutinho said. ‘Not because I’m selfish, but I could have offered something. I will use this anger and push myself to my limits. I saw how Luis (Suarez) was a maniac in training. At this point, my body and mind feel like clay. I will mould it the way I envision.’
The other high point for Rodgers, who revealed that Lazar Markovic has a tendon problem that threatens to keep him out of next Sunday’s Premier League opener against Southampton, was the way Lovren eased into the centre of Liverpool’s defence.
Liverpool shipped 50 league goals last season but Lovren showed enough to suggest that, of all the signings Rodgers has made, he could be the most crucial.
‘Dejan was just what I’ve been looking for since Jamie Carragher left,’ said Rodgers. ‘He is a dominant No 1 centre half, who reads it well, with good guidance of the back four. His qualities of range of passing too. He was excellent.
‘I’m delighted with the result as they have been one of Europe’s top teams. We got four really good goals and could have had a few more. We’ll be ready (for Southampton). We will have a behind-closed-doors game this week and I’m looking forward to next weekend.’
As well he might if Coutinho is in a similar, spell-binding mood.