Philippe Coutinho: Steven Gerrard coy on Barcelona midfielder amid Aston Villa interest

Philippe Coutinho is set to return to Premier League by this weekend; Aston Villa is one of six English clubs in the race; Liverpool and Tottenham are not interested in signing Coutinho, who became Barcelona’s club-record signing four years ago when he joined for £146m from Liverpool.

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 is 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.

Liverpool 'inserted a special clause in Philippe Coutinho's sale to  Barcelona in 2018' | Daily Mail Online

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.”

The former Liverpool player wants to return to England and sign for an ambitious club where he can play regularly.

Aston Villa has made a tentative inquiry to Barcelona, but the hierarchy is 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.

Barcelona decide to keep Coutinho amid injury and lack of bids

Despite the 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.

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