Here's why Liverpool have Rafa Benitez to thank for Philippe Coutinho 1 year ago

Here's why Liverpool have Rafa Benitez to thank for Philippe Coutinho

Rafa Benitez - Liverpool legend.

Benitez spent six successful years as manager of Liverpool. His team won the Champions League, the FA Cup and narrowly missed out on the title in 2009.

The current Newcastle United manager left by "mutual consent" in 2010, but is still fondly remembered on Merseyside. He was replaced by Roy Hodgson, which, even now, is difficult to comprehend.

Benitez became Inter Milan manager after leaving Liverpool, but he was still doing his old club a good turn.

The Spaniard would be sacked by Christmas.

Yet, those few months he spent working with 18-year-old Philippe Coutinho, who joined Inter in the same summer, would prove very beneficial to his former club.

According to Damien Comolli, Liverpool's director of football between November 2010 and April 2012, Benitez alerted the club to Coutinho.

He says Liverpool wouldn't have pursued the playmaker if it wasn't for Rafa's seal of approval.

"In the spring of 2012, the owners told me that we had a limited spending budget per player of €10 million and we could only sign players who were under 21," Comolli said in an interview with ESPN.

"I said to the scout: 'Coutinho becomes our priority' because we were looking for a wide player to replace Dirk Kuyt. He [Coutinho] was not available because they transferred him to Espanyol [on loan] later on.

"We didn't even know he was that good - it was difficult to watch him play because he was never playing at Inter. We knew about him, we knew he was good, but it was only when Rafa said he's going to be world-class. When somebody like Rafa says a thing about a player like this, you listen.

"The head of recruitment said he was the best we could get. But I was sacked, then Kenny [Dalglish] was sacked."

Liverpool eventually signed Coutinho for £8.5m in January 2013.

He made just 47 appearances in three seasons with Inter, but has become a key player at Anfield and recently signed a new five year contract making him the club's highest paid player.

Inter's sporting director Piero Ausilo said letting the Brazilian go is one of the "greatest regrets" of his 20 years with the club.