An enthusiastic Steven Gerrard hit back amid critics questioning Philippe Coutinho’s time at Camp Nou, saying: “It doesn’t make sense for me to listen to keyboard warriors in Barcelona!”
The Brazilian came under heavy criticism after losing his fortunes under Barcelona coach Xavi, and before his loan move to Villa Park, he had only made five appearances all season amid concerns about his form and fitness.
The Champions League winner completed 90 minutes in October 2020 after missing most of last season with a knee injury.
As for Gerrard, he convinced his former Liverpool teammate to return to the Premier League after a successful Zoom call, as Villa had the option to buy Coutinho for £33m in the summer.
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Villa boss Gerrard was asked about the skeptics of Coutinho, and he quickly put them in their place.
He said: “I never notice what people say in Barcelona. Why do I analyze what people say there, it is not important.
“The important thing is that we signed a great footballer. When I had the opportunity to bring in someone who won two trophies in Barcelona, many trophies for Barcelona, went on loan to Bayern Munich and won the European Cup, and someone I knew well throughout his days with Liverpool as well.
“It doesn’t make sense for me to listen to the keyboard warriors in Barcelona. I know the player, I know the boy, and I’m confident we can move him.”
“He is a great talent, he needs to smile and enjoy his football, feel confident, supported and loved and there is no doubt that we will see the real Philippe Coutinho.”
Gerrard added: “You can clearly see that he is a player who needs to feel loved and supported, like the majority of footballers are. I have been, you want people to trust you and trust you.
“It’s my job and my job, his new teammates and supporters, to make him feel good about himself.
“If you get a happy Philippe Coutinho who enjoys football, who is in a physical place in terms of repetitive training and playing time, then the talent does not leave you.
“Quality doesn’t leave you, it’s about putting everything else around and that’s our job, to put everything else around it.”
Following the massive deal to bring in Coutinho, Lucas Digne was confirmed on Thursday for a reported £25m fee, with their two making their debut against Manchester United on Saturday.
Before returning to Villa Park after missing a boxing day loss to Chelsea due to Covid, Gerrard said: “There is definitely a sign of optimism and ambition, not only from me but from the top of the club as well, which is vital here.
“We want to move now, we don’t want to wait. When we came we knew we had a lot of talented youngsters in the group, who could potentially be great FIA players.
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“We also had a ‘mid-life’ class – Cash, Mings, Konsa – who are trying to become big players. They are really great players, but they have another level, and they’re still working towards that, to become experienced players. They are just a few examples.”
“We felt that maybe the group was lacking a few players who have real pedigree, who have won before, who have participated and done that, who can bring a certain level of confidence and belief to add to what is already there.
“The first two signings are the statements and the players who are ready to help Villa now, not the likely, ‘wait’ or ‘maybe’.
“We know that these two players, if we can make them happy and enjoy football again, will bring a lot to this club. That’s what we felt the dressing room needed, and there may be opportunities again to complement what is already in the dressing room.”
“I’m sure Villa Park will bounce back (against United), as they always have, but I’m sure there will be more to do with what happened on Monday night.
“We can’t wait for that, we’re in a good place. We just need to go and perform the performance with a score.”