Rafael Benitez has recalled how impressed the coaches were at Inter by a young Philippe Coutinho, who is now Barcelona’s record signing.
Philippe Coutinho was a “humble” boy who had “everything” in terms of ability even at the age of 18, according to Rafael Benitez.
The Brazil star completed his protracted transfer to Barcelona on Saturday for a fee that could reportedly reach a club-record €160 million.
Coutinho’s blockbuster move to Camp Nou comes almost five years on from his transfer to Liverpool from Inter for a bargain price said to have been just €10m.
Benitez coached Coutinho for just a few months during his ill-fated spell with the Nerazzurri in 2010 but the Newcastle United boss admits it was clear then that they had a special talent.
“It was a pleasant surprise to meet a player with the abilities of Philippe Coutinho,” Benitez told Mundo Deportivo. “We had the chance to have a boy who, even then, in our era at Inter, had a lot of quality, a great ability to cause problems.
“He had an excellent pass, shot… he had everything, despite his young age, and a wide margin for improvement.
“I remember that, aside from all of that, we were struck by the great vision he had to make the final pass, the decisive one. That’s something very important in football.
“Best of all is that he was a very humble kid, a very hard-working professional and very eager to learn. He was willing to listen to improve his abilities. He had everything, everything.
“He was barely 18 years old but we were surprised in a very positive way by the things he represented, the characteristics he combined, the values he prized and by the huge potential for his future.”
Benitez admits Coutinho could be shy at San Siro but insists it is difficult to find flaws in the playmaker’s game.
“Something negative? Well, I don’t know if it’s negative or the result of his age, but I remember he was pretty shy,” added the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss.
“But that does not necessarily have to be something negative. It was his way of being back then. What interested us, and they really did, were the skills he had.”