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Saints boss identifies Liverpool 'Messi'
Mauricio Pochettino believes his former player and current Liverpool winger Philippe Coutinho possesses “magic in his feet” and the same sort of quality as Lionel Messi.
The Saints manager had the 20-year-old on loan at Espanyol last season, and will come face-to-face with the Brazilian again today, when Liverpool visit St Mary’s.
Coutinho, right, scored five times in 16 appearances during his successful spell under Pochettino, and moved to Anfield from Inter Milan in an £8.5m deal in January.
He has already impressed since arriving at Liverpool, with his three Premier League starts coinciding with a trio of victories for the Reds.
That has earned him the praise of the Merseyside club’s captain, Steven Gerrard, this week, but it is Pochettino who has made the grandest declaration of all, comparing him to Brazilian star Ronaldinho and Barcelona’s Messi.
“I do think Coutinho has that same quality that Ronaldinho and Messi have, but he has much to prove yet,” he said.
“What is really clear to me is that Coutinho is a really responsible player – really dedicated and responsible to his own players.”
Pochettino added: “Philippe is a Brazilian player and, as it happens with most Brazilians, he has a special magic in his feet.
“Aside from the magic that he has, he also has an amazing work rate and that makes us doubt whether he fits the mould of a typical Brazilian player or a European one because his work ethic is outstanding.
“What is important about him is he is a good lad, a good kid - a great, humble person.”
Saints had been interested in Coutinho during January, when Pochettino had admitted there was a “small chance” they could have signed him.
The Argentine was this week not willing to discuss how serious the club’s attentions had been, though.
“What has happened in the past, happened in the past,” Pochettino said. “We can’t change it or do anything about it. “Actually, talking about it is not going to do anything positive either.”