Steven Gerrard’s emotional Philippe Coutinho tribute shows player Aston Villa are getting

Premier League wonderkids to look out for in 2022

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Steven Gerrard has played a decisive role in Aston Villa’s loan signing of Philippe Coutinho – a deal that represents arguably the biggest transfer in the club’s illustrious history. The former Liverpool captain has proved the difference in convincing his former team-mate to make the surprise move to the Midlands, reportedly calling Coutinho in a desperate bid to twist his arm amid interest from other Premier League clubs.

And yet it appears Coutinho did not need much time to consider his options once the prospect of reuniting with Gerrard materialised.

The pair enjoyed a close and unique relationship during their time together at Anfield, as Coutinho elevated his game to the next level alongside his new manager to become a world star.

Alongside Jordan Henderson, Coutinho was one of few Liverpool players who stood up and were counted following Gerrard’s emotional departure for LA Galaxy in 2015.

He would become a focal point in Jurgen Klopp’s side, helping Liverpool seal the return of Champions League football.

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But he too would embark on a tear-jerking farewell of his own in January 2018, when Barcelona tabled their fourth offer for the playmaker.

This time worth around the £142million figure – including add-ons – an irresistible deal Liverpool simply couldn’t refuse.

Klopp and the Anfield board had tried everything within their power to keep Coutinho, who made it clear it was every South American boy’s dream to play for Barcelona.

That was something Gerrard was keen to acknowledge when offering his immediate reaction to Coutinho’s exit but instead of criticising the Brazilian’s decision, he praised the quality and mindset of his former colleague.

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His tribute pinpoints the exact player and character Aston Villa will now be welcoming to the club in the coming days…

“I’m still digesting it, as a Liverpool fan, I’m not surprised and I know Liverpool have done everything they can to keep him and they fought very hard to keep him until the summer,” he told BT Sport while working as a pundit at Brighton in the FA Cup.

“When a kid’s got a dream, a South American, and he wants to play for Barcelona and thinks this is the only opportunity he’s going to get – it’s very difficult to stop it.

“There’s no doubt about it, Liverpool will miss him and he’s a wonderful footballer, a great person and to be fair to him he hasn’t downed tools at all and so I respect his decision and wish him all the best.

“Liverpool will go on, they’ve got big money for him and I’m sure they’ll replace him with the right people.”

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Gerrard once again took the chance to declare his admiration for Coutinho’s quality when quizzed on Villa’s interest on Thursday.

“Sixty-three caps for Brazil, a serial winner, was incredible at Liverpool, so I can understand why he’s linked to a lot of football clubs,” said Gerrard.

“I can understand why a lot of supporters up and down the country are speaking about him.

“I don’t think you get a nickname as a magician if you’re not a special footballer, so he’s someone I have an incredible amount of respect for.”

Villa have secured an initial loan until the end of the season but do have the option to buy Coutinho for between £35m-£40m.

He is expected to touch down in Birmingham in the next 48 hours to undergo a medical.

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