Steven Gerrard has vowed to get “statement signing” Philippe Coutinho smiling again to propel Aston Villa back into European contention.
Gerrard has delivered a huge message of intent in the January transfer window by recruiting the Barcelona playmaker on loan, while also adding Everton left-back Lucas Digne for £25 million.
Coutinho is set to make his debut against Manchester United on Saturday, possibly after being introduced from the bench, and Gerrard has admitted he can already sense the mood of optimism sweeping around Villa Park.
A former team-mate of Gerrard’s at Liverpool, Coutinho has endured a difficult spell with Barcelona and the £142m signing has often been held up as evidence of the Catalan club’s overexuberance.
But Gerrard insists the Brazil international can have a huge impact on Villa’s season and finally start enjoying his football again.
“You can see clearly that he’s a player that needs to feel loved and supported, like the majority of footballers. I was the same, you want people to have confidence and belief in you,” he said.
“It’s mine and the staff’s job, and the job of his new team-mates and the supporters, to get him feeling good about himself.
“If you get a happy Philippe Coutinho who is enjoying his football, the talent doesn’t leave you. Quality doesn’t leave you, it’s about putting everything else around that and that’s what our job is, to put everything around it.
“Has that enjoyment gone for him over the last few years? Possibly, yes. I think Philippe would say that himself and that’s probably the reason why we’ve had the opportunity to bring him here.”