Philippe Coutinho has the ability to be ‘literally the best player in the world’, according to former Liverpool team-mate Glen Johnson.
The Reds sold the Brazilian playmaker to Barcelona for £142million in January 2018 but Coutinho has failed to repeat his Anfield heroics at the Nou Camp.
Struggling for form in Spain, the 29-year-old spent the 2019-20 campaign on loan at Bayern Munich and managed just 12 La Liga appearances last season.
Despite his immense talent, Johnson believes Coutinho’s difficult spell at Barcelona is down to pressure and a lack of belief.
In five games this season, he is yet to register a goal or assist for Ronald Koeman’s side but Johnson believes Coutinho has the ability to turn things around and return to the top.
“Phil could be – and I told him this, I said to him he could be the best player in the world, like literally the best player in the world,” Johnson exclusively told Mirror Sport on behalf of bettingexpert.com.
“But I think sometimes he lacks belief. I think the reason he performed so well at Liverpool was because he had Brendan’s arm around him, reminding him how good he was on a regular basis and he bought into it.
“Whereas sometimes he could be a bit, sort of mentally attacking himself, but if he just enjoyed himself and tried to play his own game, he would be unstoppable.
“Going to Barcelona isn’t easy. He’s gone for a lot of money, playing with world class players in every position and obviously we will never know the reason it didn’t work, but I think he’s still got a lot to offer the game and I think he’s still got a big future in front of him.”
Coutinho scored 54 goals in 201 Liverpool appearances during five years on Merseyside and was considered one of the best players in Europe.
Johnson believes the midfielder thrived at Anfield because he was allowed to ‘enjoy’ himself on the pitch.
“When he got to Barcelona, big price tag, all the other players, maybe he thought he’s really got to perform, whereas at Liverpool, he didn’t have that.
“We had such a good vibe in the dressing room, we were like ‘Relax, go and play football and enjoy yourself’.
“He needs that sort of behaviour around him, he doesn’t need pressure, when he was playing his best, the shackles were off and he could enjoy himself.”