Philippe Coutinho has finally come in from the cold at Liverpool

The classy Brazilian may be struggling with the British weather but he is warming plenty of hearts at Anfield after a stuttering start to his career

The Scouse girls posing for photos outside the Jolly Miller pub on Friday, all dolled up for Aintree's Ladies' Day, appeared impervious to the unseasonal chill, but for the young Brazilian seated in the media room at Liverpool's nearby Melwood training ground it will clearly take some getting used to.

Philippe Coutinho has known cold Milanese winters, but the biting wind here is something else. "It's completely different from Brazil, the wind here is really strong and cold," says the £8.5 million January recruit from Internazionale. "I tell my friends in Brazil and some of them, when they come over, cannot believe how cold it is."

Arsène Wenger once made the point that the wind in this country is a fundamental impediment to honing technique – owing to the need for players to keep moving – but thankfully it has not stopped Coutinho from showcasing his qualities, despite his quibble.

With his mop of curls, slender build and easy smile, the 20-year-old from Rio de Janeiro could pass for a foreign-exchange student; on the pitch, though, he has looked every inch the Brazilian footballer, his nimble feet and eye for a pass proving instrumental in Liverpool's late push for Europe, providing two goals and three assists in his five League starts, which have yielded four victories.

"On the ball, he's a genius," was the verdict of the former Anfield striker John Aldridge in his Liverpool Echo column last week after Sunday's comeback victory at Aston Villa, sparked by Coutinho's defence-splitting pass for Jordan Henderson's equaliser. If Luis Suarez is Liverpool's dark knight, they may have just found their boy wonder in the new No 10.

Coutinho was named Liverpool's player of the month for March, and the early signs suggest he could be ready to fulfil the promise that led to Real Madrid being reported for making an illegal approach for him when a schoolboy at Vasco da Gama. Instead, Inter brought him to Europe in 2010, yet his opportunities proved limited and he spent half of last season playing under Mauricio Pochettino, now Southampton's manager, at Espanyol.

After three Serie A starts this season Inter offloaded him as a cost-cutting measure, and Coutinho is now relishing his weekly involvement with Brendan Rodgers's Liverpool. "I want to learn as much as possible here and develop in my career," he says.

He jokes about bulking up in the weights room and improving his heading – fresh from losing a Brazil v Uruguay game of head tennis, he admits he has never scored with his head ("It is an ambition!"). But his immediate task is to complete his adjustment to the perpetual motion of the Premier League.

"English football is much more intense. It was not so bad when I went to Italy, but when I came here it was quite difficult for me to get into the rhythm of the game.

"There were a few occasions when I was quite slow and [Steven Gerrard] came up to me and asked me to be much quicker with the ball."

A similar instruction has come from his manager. "He always asks me to improve on my marking of opposition players and apply more intensity and play with more pace," Coutinho explains.

It is interesting to hear that Rodgers speaks to him in Spanish, a language he understands from his Espanyol loan, underlining how far we have come since the days when Ricky Villa, newly arrived at Tottenham, would meet a Spanish-speaking priest simply for conversation. By contrast, Coutinho, happily installed in Fabio Aurelio's old house with his wife and their two pugs, Mel and Will, has a sizeable South American contingent at the club for support. "Lucas [Leiva] has been a big friend to me, like a father. Not only him but all the players who speak Spanish."

Crucially, with Suarez he appears to have struck up an understanding that goes beyond words. "Suarez is an excellent player and he is always on the move, he never stays still. And when you have the ball it is much better for you to have a player like that, because you can open the defence much more easily when the player is always moving."

Coutinho provides his own attacking threat. "I play on the left and then come in," says the youngster, who developed his deftness of touch playing the kind of small-sided games that the Football Association will belatedly introduce to youth football in this country from the 2014-15 season. "I played futsal from the age of six. When I was seven I went to Vasco da Gama, playing futsal until I was 11, and then I moved to the [football] field. When you play futsal it is more technical, much quicker and the [pitch] is smaller and the pace higher, so you need to be a highly technical player. That helped me a lot."

His star soon rose and he featured in Brazil's 2011 Under-20 World Cup triumph alongside Chelsea's Oscar. His wish is to add to his solitary senior cap, won in 2010, and he hopes that shining for Liverpool will open the door to Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad for next summer's home World Cup. "If you're doing well in Europe, in a big league like the Premier League, the chances are higher you'll be called up than in any other league." For now, though, with West Ham at Anfield today, Europe is the goal. "It is very important for the club to get to Europe and we will do all we can in the games left to get the maximum points to achieve at least the lowest Europa League place," he adds, eyes set on the home straight.

Liverpool v West Ham is today, kick-off 1.30pm

Wizened of Oz: Qatar switch for Kewell

The former Leeds and Liverpool winger Harry Kewell has put on hold plans to find a new club in England and joined Al Gharafa of Qatar on a short-term deal until the end of their season.

That will only run into May if Al Gharafa reach the AFC Champions' League knockout stage. But the 34-year-old former Australia international – now a midfielder – was in contention to make his debut in today's Qatar Stars League match against Al Sadd.

The golden boy of Australia's golden generation left Galatasaray and returned to play Down Under in 2011, but had been without a club since leaving Melbourne Victory at the end of last year's A-League season for family reasons.

Many expected him to return to the A-League, with Perth Glory apparently interested in bringing him back, while he had also been hopeful of finding a club in England last summer.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape