MICAH RICHARDS: Coutinho joining Villa shows the clout of Gerrard

MICAH RICHARDS: Philippe Coutinho swapping Barcelona for Aston Villa shows the clout of Steven Gerrard… it is a fascinating move that can have the same impact as when Robinho signed for Manchester City

  • Philippe Coutinho has joined Aston Villa from Barcelona this month on a loan
  • REVEALED: Villa are paying £125,000 per week as a cut of Coutinho’s wages 
  • They have an option to buy the Brazilian and it shows the clout of Steven Gerrard 
  • Coutinho’s move has shades of when Manchester City signed Robinho in 2008 

There were many reasons Aston Villa wanted Steven Gerrard to be their manager but one of the biggest was obvious at 10am on Friday.

It was the moment the news was released that Philippe Coutinho had joined the club on loan. 

Here is a Champions League-winning Brazil international, vastly experienced and desperate to kick-start his career again, who would get into most teams around Europe.

But he picked Villa because of Gerrard. This is not being disrespectful to Dean Smith – and I’m not saying Villa couldn’t have got Coutinho had he been manager – but Gerrard’s name and reputation is far reaching and this initial loan from Barcelona could be the catalyst for a new era at my old club.

Philippe Coutinho has joined Aston Villa on loan with the club holding an option-to-buy 

It’s a remarkable coup for Steven Gerrard, who was a key factor in Coutinho’s move to Villa

Coutinho’s move has shades of when Robinho, another Brazilian, joined Man City in 2008

Everything needs a starting point. With Manchester City, it was the Robinho deal in 2008. He came from Real Madrid and while he didn’t have the influence everyone hoped, his arrival in the North-west showed other players of that calibre that City was a destination to take seriously.

Coutinho turning up in Birmingham is a statement of intent from Villa. 

Plenty of players will be looking at how he fares under Gerrard and be intrigued by what happens next; those playing now will have grown up watching Gerrard at Liverpool and be excited by the idea of working with him.

This, potentially, is so much more than just a temporary deal until the end of the season. It’s going to be one of the most fascinating pieces of business that happens in January and it shows the authority Gerrard has because Villa, of late, have tended to sign younger players than this 29-year-old.

The club confirmed the news on Friday morning and it showed the influence Gerrard can have

The move to Aston Villa sees Coutinho (right) join up with his old Liverpool team-mate Gerrard

Plenty of people, of course, will be quick to say that he is finished. 

Friday marked the fourth anniversary of his £146million move from Liverpool to Barcelona but while things never went the way they should have done at the Nou Camp this guy’s ability should not be questioned.

I’ve been following Coutinho’s career closely since I played against him for the first time, on a sweltering night in Baltimore in August 2010. He was a kid, making his way in Inter Milan’s team, but it was evident during that game he had all the tools to go to the top.

It was the speed of his turns, his wonderful technique and the ridiculous high standard of his close control that was something else. Inter beat City 3-0 that evening and while he didn’t score, he was the talk of our dressing room with everyone asking: ‘where has he come from?’

He was brilliant for Liverpool, in so many ways. They bought him for £8m in January 2013 and sold him five years later for a staggering profit that enabled the club to develop further, as they used the money they got from Barcelona to buy Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker.

 Things did not quite go to plan at Barcelona for Coutinho following his £146million transfer

Part of me feels sad that he never got to share in the joy that followed under Jurgen Klopp because he had the potential to be remembered as one of Liverpool’s all-time great midfielders; perhaps not in the same realm as Gerrard but certainly in a high bracket.

When he went to Barcelona, he was worth every single penny of that transfer fee. He was playing out of his skin, he’d been a driving force in helping Liverpool get back into the Champions League and delivering on the promise that I’d seen at close quarters in the United States.

Maybe the size of the transfer fee meant that everyone expected him to turn into the next Neymar or climb to the levels of Lionel Messi. I understand the lure of a South American wanting to represent Barcelona but he left a good thing behind at Anfield. The grass isn’t always greener.

Some of the criticism aimed at Coutinho suggests he’s been playing with his boots on the wrong feet but it hasn’t been all bad. He was very good for Bayern Munich, during a loan spell in 2019-20, and helped them winning the Champions League and clean up domestically in Germany. 

Gerrard (middle) knows how to make him tick and can get him firing in the right system

There were trophies, too, in Spain and his average at Barcelona was around a goal every four games. True, the ratio isn’t brilliant but it’s not as bad as some would have you believe. There is a top player waiting to explode and Gerrard is the man to revive him.

The set up at Villa will bring the best out of him, with hard workers protecting him and giving him the opportunity to flourish. 

Gerrard, I know, thinks the world of him and you cannot underestimate how crucial it is for confidence to have the backing of the man in the dugout.

Gerrard is determined to make his mark at Villa and the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford on Monday night is fascinating challenge; their season, as a whole, has been given an added dimension by the return to England of Coutinho. This is the start of a grand plan. It will be fascinating to see it develop.


Kieran Trippier is the first signing of the new Newcastle era. I don’t understand why Atletico Madrid let a player of his class go but Diego Simeone’s loss is Eddie Howe’s gain.

Inevitably, there has been criticism of Kieran already that he has ‘gone for the money’.

Let me tackle that by explaining this. He started off at Manchester City, where he was behind me and Pablo Zabaleta, and went to Burnley to get games. He did so well there that Tottenham came for him and he ended up representing them in a Champions League final.

Trippier has scored for England in a World Cup semi-final, played in a European Championship final; he’s won LaLiga with one of Spain’s great clubs. He is one of the most recognisable full-backs in the game and maximised every ounce of his ability. He’s earned the right to make this decision. 

Kieran Trippier swapped Atletico Madrid for Newcastle United to be their first January signing


My love for FA Cup third round weekend will never disappear and I will have a keen eye on the result at Kenilworth Road on Sunday, when Luton face my local team, Harrogate. 

I’d love nothing more than an away win and Harrogate securing a place in the fourth round draw.

A few weeks ago, on a rare Saturday off, I went to watch Harrogate with one of my friends. 

I had my hood up and stood on the terraces, minding my own business. It was a brilliant afternoon, a reminder of how great the game is outside the Premier League. I will be back again soon.


Harrogate Town travel to Kenilworth Road to play Luton in the FA Cup third round on Sunday


The saga with Romelu Lukaku is over and, for that, significant credit must go to Thomas Tuchel. 

Chelsea’s head coach has gone up considerably in my estimation for how he dealt with the episode, as it was a masterclass from start to finish.

I wondered how everything would play out last Friday when Lukaku’s interview with Sky Italia was broadcast. At the back of my mind, I had the doubts around Tuchel that had surfaced from his time at Paris Saint-Germain, with reports that he could not handle a dressing full of big stars.

But Tuchel never put a foot out of place from start to finish. He had to drop Lukaku against Liverpool; when he spoke to the media, he gave enough information without ever belittling his player and also protected his club’s asset. 

Chelsea can move on and that’s all down to their manager. 

Thomas Tuchel (middle) deserves immense credit for how he handled Romelu Lukaku fall-out

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