Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard responds to links to world-class Philippe Coutinho

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Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard has labelled Philippe Coutinho’ world-class’ amid ever-growing murmurs of a potential January move. Coutinho reunite with Gerrard at Villa Park on a short loan this month but is the subject of mass interest from Premier League clubs.

Speaking ahead of Villa’s FA Cup Third Round trip to Manchester United on Monday, Gerrard addressed the Coutinho speculation by heaping praise on his ability.

He told reporters: “He [Coutinho] is a wonderful footballer. To share a dressing room and a pitch with Coutinho was an absolute pleasure.

“He was on a level that very few footballers are on with his imagination and creativity. His highlight reels are there for all to see. The name speaks for itself. I do appreciate his name is out there, and he is linked to Aston Villa.

“But he is also linked to five-six other clubs in this league, and I am sure there would be a long list of foreign clubs that are linked with Philippe’s services as well.

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“You are talking about a world-class individual and player. I appreciate and respect the speculation, but I can’t give anything further than that.

“I wouldn’t like that disrespect coming this way in terms of Aston Villa. What I won’t do here or anywhere else is speak about players that belong to other clubs. That is not fair or respectful.

“I appreciate and respect the speculation. We are at that time of the season where a lot of names get bandied around, but, unfortunately, you won’t see me comment on any speculation.”

According to BirminghamLive, a deal to bring Coutinho to the Midlands in an audacious move is ‘progressing fast’.

The 29-year-old’s Villa switch could be completed within the next 24 hours, as Christian Purslow and Johan Lange work on agreeing terms with Barcelona director of football, Mateu Alemany.

Villa won’t be able to pay the entirety of Coutinho’s £12.5million salary, one of the aspects of his contract still to negotiate.

Others include how much Coutinho will cut in his salary, how much of it Barcelona will pay, and whether a buy option or obligation will be included.

After starting just five LaLiga games this season, though, there will be a desire between all parties to shake hands on a deal.

Gerrard hasn’t exactly tried to hide his admiration for Coutinho amid links to his former Liverpool teammate.

“It was sometimes mind-blowing to see what he could do with a ball at his feet in training,” Gerrard explained.

“Philippe had the quickest feet in the squad, and he was one player I’d be a little bit wary of getting too close to in tight situations during training.

“He was also a fantastic kid. I loved him to bits, just the way he went about his life and his football.”

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