Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho: “Rafa Benítez helped me quite a lot”
Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho has noted how Rafa Benítez helped him understand the European game.
The Brazilian worked under the current Napoli head coach at Internazionale in 2010.
Benítez immediately integrated Coutinho, who had arrived from Vasco da Gama for €4 million, into the first-team.
Coutinho believes the Spaniard taught him to play quicker and become more tactically aware.
“I feel I have improved already in terms of understanding the European game,” he told The Guardian. “Rafa Benítez helped me quite a lot with that, when I was at Inter.
“In Brazil, if you play where I do, you are not expected to track back or defend in any way. You are an attacker and that's it. Only technically are you part of a team.
“When I worked with Rafa he changed that mentality straight away. I became more of a team player rather than an individual, saw the game in a different way and was encouraged to move the ball a bit quicker and look for different passes.
“I have to say I think I prefer the European style now. You move faster, think more quickly and are involved in the game more.
“I felt comfortable at Liverpool straight away, the team has been playing with a great amount of freedom in attack and perhaps that is why I was able to adapt to English football quite quickly.”
Benítez was sacked by Inter in December 2010. His departure stalled Coutinho's progress, with the 21 year-old more of a peripheral figure under subsequent head coach’s Leonardo, Gian Piero Gasperini, Claudio Ranieri and Andrea Stramaccioni.
He was eventually loaned to Espanyol in January 2012, where he impressed, before being sold to Liverpool 12 months later for £8.5 million.
Coutinho, who has been capped once by Brazil, settled quickly in England. This season he’s made 10 appearances, scoring once.