LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho is the hottest Brazilian talent after Neymar, according to his compatriot Juninho.
Coutinho became the top-scoring Brazilian in England’s Premier League when he scored his 30th goal in his club’s 2-1 win over Stoke City on Saturday, eclipsing the former Middlesbrough midfielder.
”I am delighted that he takes my record,“ Juninho told the Daily Mail. ”I can’t think of anyone better -- the record couldn’t be in better hands.
“Coutinho can be considered, after Neymar, the best player in Brazil. He’s a different class and he deserves everything he is achieving because he has worked very hard for it.”
Coutinho has showed signs of regaining his best form in the past couple of games after taking time to regain his sharpness following an early-season ankle injury.
Juninho, who had two spells with Middlesbrough between 1995-1997 and 2002-2004, believes the key to Coutinho’s game lies in his ability to find space.
“If you have an intelligence to your game then you can find the space on the pitch and because the game in England is so fast that means a lot of the time it is also very open,” he said.
“One of Coutinho’s biggest qualities is that ability to find the space. People think that type of player will have more difficulties adapting to English football than say Spanish football but in England I found a lot more space than I did in Spain,” said Juninho, who also played for Atletico Madrid.
“The intensity is there but if you get past the first wave of pressure then the pitch opens up.”
Reporting by Neil Robinson; editing by Richard Lough