Brendan Rodgers admits "surprise" as he speaks out on former player Philippe Coutinho

By Nathan Ridley

Brendan Rodgers has admitted that he was "surprised" by Philippe Coutinho 's failure to succeed at Barcelona.

Leicester City boss Rodgers managed Coutinho while the pair were together at Liverpool, as the Brazilian became one of the best attacking midfielders in the world.

The 29-year-old signed for Aston Villa on loan this week and, in the hope of turning his career around, has reunited with another former Liverpool player, Steven Gerrard.

Although it was under Jurgen Klopp when he secured his ill-fated £103.5million transfer to Barcelona in January 2018, Coutinho was brought to Anfield as a teenager by Rodgers, who expected him to kick on at the Camp Nou.

"I have to say I'm quite surprised it hasn't worked out for him at Barcelona, because I thought if ever there was a player and a club which were aligned, it was probably those two," Rodgers said.

Join the debate! Will Coutinho be a success at Aston Villa? Give us your verdict here.

Rodgers worked with Coutinho at Leicester (Liverpool Echo)

"Sometimes, if the environment isn’t right for whatever reason...for Philippe it's all about the environment.

"If he feels that love, and he feels that responsibility, then he'll thrive. I’m sure he'll do really well for Steven, he just needs to get back playing regularly. He's shown in the Premier League he's a top player, and he’ll look to return to that level.

The Foxes manager also revealed that Chelsea, where he coached the reserve side between 2006 and 2008, had targeted the playmaker before he was snapped up by Serie A giants Inter Milan from native outfit Vasco da Gama.

"He's an amazing player, and a great guy," Rodgers continued. "I remember when we brought him in at 19. I'd seen him as a young player and we'd hoped to get him to Chelsea, but he’d already agreed he was going to Inter Milan.

"We were able to, when he was 19, bring him in then. I think at the time people maybe put a question mark over his physicality, but he proved during his time at Liverpool, and his development, what a fantastic player he was. He's a very humble guy.

Coutinho signed for Villa on Tuesday (PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

Gerrard's influence on the transfer, a loan until the end of the season, was obvious from an Anfield perspective, and Coutinho told his new club's website : “I spoke a lot with the manager, with Stevie, and he told me about the club and his ambitions.

“I’m very happy to be here and I'm looking to enjoy my football.”

The 63-capped Brazil international added: “I’ve known Stevie for a long time. I played with him and I learned a lot from him.

“He’s someone who I have big admiration for. I hope to do my best here. For sure, I will work hard, and I hope together we can do good work.”

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