Philippe Coutinho: Aston Villa could play in the Champions League under Steven Gerrard’s leadership

Former Liverpool playmaker tells CHARLOTTE DUNCKER that he has much more to offer at Villa Park – and he is backing his former teammate to lead the charge to Europe.

Coutinho joined Villa on loan in January but has not registered a goal or assist in the league in his past 10 league appearances. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Coutinho joined Villa on loan in January but has not registered a goal or assist in the league in his past 10 league appearances. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Philippe Coutinho has promised Aston Villa fans there is more to come from him and he has Champions League success within his sights.

The Brazilian put pen to paper on a permanent deal that will keep him at the club until 2027 and he believes he has got more to give at Villa Park than he has shown in the last five months.

“My performances have been OK, I think. But I always want to do better and improve,” Coutinho tells The Times. “I think it was a good start. I’ve not been here a long time and I always want more, that’s what I want.”

The playmaker joined Villa on loan in January after struggling for minutes at Barcelona and admitted it was always in his sights to make it a permanent deal here. After a troubled time at Barcelona, where he signed from Liverpool for a club record £142m, he is determined to show he is still at the top of his game.

“I don’t regret anything,” he said about his time at Barcelona. “Like I’ve always said it was my dream to play for Barcelona and at that moment it was my decision. It was not what I expected or what other people expected but I tried to give my best there and with many ups and downs with injuries. Now that’s in the past and now I focus on this and what I can do to help the club and my teammates.”

Coutinho says he has no regrets about his time at Barcelona. Picture: AFP
Coutinho says he has no regrets about his time at Barcelona. Picture: AFP

Sitting at the edge of an indoor artificial grass pitch at the club’s Bodymoor Heath training ground the 29-year-old appears relaxed and happy after agreeing to extend his stay at the club. He repeatedly apologises for what he says is “poor English” but the message he is trying to convey is clear: despite Steven Gerrard’s pulling power he wouldn’t have agreed to stay if he didn’t buy into the vision.

“I’m ambitious, so is the club and so are the players. Of course the big objective is to help the club to get back into Europe and I think that’s possible,” he said.

But what about the Champions League? Having won it with Bayern Munich, the 29-year-old knows that it takes to lift Europe’s elite trophy. Does he believe the plan Gerrard has for this Villa side can get them there?

“Anything is possible in football,” he replied about future Champions League success. “We have great staff, great players with some experience and some young players and that mix is very good.

“I always say that about the national team as well that it’s good to have a mixed group. Of course we want to achieve good things like to play in Europe and to win things and for me anything is possible.”

The 29-year-old would not divulge exactly what it was that Gerrard said to him about his vision for the future but whatever it was, it clearly worked.

Gerrard was a key factor in Coutinho’s decision to join Villa. Picture: Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Gerrard was a key factor in Coutinho’s decision to join Villa. Picture: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

“All I can say is that he’s very ambitious, he’s a great leader and he wants to win, like me and like the other players. We’re ambitious for the future and we’ll do everything to achieve good things and I think we will,” he said.

But in the here and now, the aim is to finish higher than the present 14th place and Sunday’s game against Manchester City also has huge significance for the former Liverpool man. Should Villa beat Pep Guardiola’s side they could help to hand the title to the Merseyside club.

Having not registered a goal or assist in the league in his last ten league appearances there will be a few of his former teammates who will be hoping he can produce something to help them at the Etihad on Sunday.

“They haven’t been in touch yet,” he laughed. “It will be a very good game against a top club, they’re fighting for the title and we’re fighting for our own things and for sure we want to give our best in all the games. All I’m thinking about is Aston Villa.”

If they fail to beat City on Sunday, Villa will finish 14th. It is a position that Gerrard believes is too low for his club and while Coutinho believes he can bring more next season he knows there has to be an all-round improvement if they are to get a higher league position next year.

“We lost some points that we shouldn’t have in a number of games,” he said. “The main thing is consistency. The atmosphere in the stadium with the supporters is amazing. It’s a great club to be a part of and with the ambitions we have we know we can push up the table.”

-The Times