Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho is a man at the top of his game.
And the Brazilian’s goal against Argentina was further proof of this, writes James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo .
After cutting in from the left flank, he unleashed an unstoppable strike from outside the box to give his country a huge 3-0 win over their arch-rivals in a World Cup qualifier in Belo Horizonte.
That means he can now add national hero to his list of achievements after having inspired the Reds to climb to the top of the Premier League.
His genius is a source of unbridled joy for Kopites but his future is also the subject of growing angst.
‘Objetivo Coutinho’ screamed the headline on the front page of today’s Spanish newspaper Sport.
The Catalan publication claim that the attacker is Barcelona’s top transfer target.
It’s no surprise. After all Coutinho has elevated his game to such a level that he wouldn’t look out of place on any stage across Europe.
The rumours are bound to be fuelled by the fact that the 24-year-old is close friends with both Neymar and Luis Suarez.
After what happened with Suarez three years ago, Kopites fear that history will repeat itself. That the speculation will rumble on and the club’s prized asset will end up being lured away once again.
The pulling power of the Spanish giants, especially for South American players, is huge, but this situation is different to Suarez’s.
For a start, Coutinho has never shown any signs of agitating for a move away from Anfield.
“Liverpool feels like my home,” he told the ECHO recently.
“I feel happy, settled and comfortable here with the city and the people.”
Secondly, Liverpool is a much more attractive proposition now with Jurgen Klopp at the helm.
The Reds are a resurgent force and look well equipped to deliver the kind of silverware both players and supporters crave. Why walk away from that?
Liverpool have no intention of selling Coutinho who cost them just £8.5million from Inter Milan nearly four years ago but is now worth upwards of £50million.
Coutinho penned a new deal in February last year to keep him at Anfield until the summer of 2020 so on the face of it there is no issue there.
But Liverpool can’t rest on their laurels. They need to be proactive and pre-empt Barcelona firming up their interest by giving Coutinho a contract which reflects his growing status and importance to Klopp’s side.
Coutinho isn’t currently in the highest bracket of the club’s wage earners.
His £80,000 per week salary is significantly less than the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and James Milner, who all earn in excess of £100,000 per week.
Putting that right should be at the top of Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards’ in-tray.
The Reds must do everything they can to ensure that nothing dents the current feelgood factor. There must be no unwanted distractions.
Klopp spoke in the summer about wanting to make Liverpool the ultimate destination rather than simply a stepping stone. He’s determined to put a stop to the talent drain which has seen the likes of Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Fernando Torres and Suarez move on.
“You need to need your key players,” Klopp told the ECHO.
“You have to create a situation where you are successful. A situation where everyone feels in a good way and we are strong enough and patient enough to keep them together.
“We want to be a club in the future for sure whose players don’t want to leave. But it will only be possible with success and the atmosphere we create in and around the club.”
Barcelona look likely to put that to the test next summer. Liverpool’s challenge is to convince Coutinho he can achieve his hopes and dreams without heading for Catalonia.