Steven Gerrard says he can understand why so many clubs are after “special” Philippe Coutinho, but would not be drawn on Aston Villa’s interest.
Villa are one of six English clubs in the race to sign the Barcelona midfielder, with Coutinho keen to return to the Premier League and expected to make a decision on his future before this weekend.
Gerrard, who regards Coutinho as a friend after their time together at Liverpool, did not want to add to speculation, but was full of praise for the 29-year-old at Thursday’s news conference.
“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, ahead of Monday’s FA Cup third-round tie at Manchester United.
“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.
“But I don’t want to add to any speculation, because he belongs to Barcelona.”
Saturday 15th January 5:00pm
The former Liverpool player wants to return to England and sign for an ambitious club where he can play regularly.
It is understood that neither Liverpool nor Tottenham are among the clubs chasing his signature.
Aston Villa have made a tentative enquiry to Barcelona, but the hierarchy are conscious of avoiding a bidding war with other clubs as the Brazilian’s wage demands could also be significant.
‘I’ve got nothing but positive things to say’
Coutinho, who has scored 28 goals in 105 games for Barca, has struggled since making his dream move in a club-record £146m transfer in January 2018, but still managed to win four major trophies in Catalonia.
Despite widespread belief that Coutinho has underperformed since moving to Spain, Gerrard has defended his former team-mate’s record at the Nou Camp and thinks he still has a lot to offer.
“He won two league titles and two Copa del Reys with Barcelona,” added Gerrard.
“I think if you go and have a look at his Wikipedia page I think you’ll see a serial winner wherever he’s been.
“I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about the player, he’s a friend of mine, so if I’m asked the questions I can speak for as long as you want.”
Coutinho also spent the 2019/20 campaign on loan at Bayern Munich and won the Champions League, the Bundesliga, and the German Cup under Hansi Flick.
‘Gerrard may get best out of Coutinho’
South American football expert Tim Vickery told Sky Sports News:
“I was speaking to Brazil’s coach about Coutinho and one thing he said was he’s painfully shy. It’s one of the reasons the Barcelona deal hasn’t worked out. He was never going to swagger into that dressing room. He needs an arm around him all the time. So, Gerrard knows what Coutinho can do and knows how to get the best out of him. The kind of treatment he needs.”
No club is in pole position to sign Coutinho
Sky Sports News’ Kaveh Solhekol on The Transfer Show:
“There are lots of clubs interested in signing Coutinho, including six Premier League clubs, as well as clubs abroad.
“But he wants to come back to England and to return to the Premier League.
“I’m told no club is in pole position at the moment to sign him.
“I don’t think he knows where he’s going, but he’s got lots of options and his representatives are speaking to different clubs.
“We’ve seen his move to Barcelona hasn’t worked out, it’s been very stop-start. He wants to go somewhere where he can settle and play regularly.”
Villa interested in Bologna’s Hickey
Aston Villa are interested in highly-rated Scottish defender Aaron Hickey, Sky Sports News has been told.
The 19-year-old left-back moved to Italian side Bologna in the summer of 2020, after breaking through at Hearts.
He has played 19 games in Serie A already this season, scoring four goals.
Gerrard was originally impressed by Hickey’s performances for Hearts against his Rangers team in Scotland, and is understood to believe he could adapt well to the Premier League.
Asked about the club’s hunt for a left-back on Thursday, Villa boss Gerrard said: “We’re analysing a few different positions, in our team and in our squad where we can look to strengthen.
“That is happening behind the scenes, there’s nothing to report in terms of individual names or areas of what’s going on.”
Villa are also exploring other possibilities to strengthen at left-back.
Follow the January transfer window with Sky Sports
Who will be on the move in January?
The January transfer window opened on Saturday January 1, 2022 and closes at 11pm on Monday January 31.
Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.