When Philippe Coutinho joined Liverpool in 2013, the Brazil forward was so lightly regarded that his signing was overshadowed by the arrival of Daniel Sturridge at Anfield earlier that month.
But five years later, Coutinho has become such a formidable force that his departure will be mourned by Liverpool fans around the world if Barcelona complete their bid to land the Reds star in a blockbuster transfer that could reportedly be worth up to 160 million euros ($192 million).
Coutinho was just 20 and yet to fully harness his talents when Liverpool paid £8.5 million ($11.5 million) to bring him to the Premier League from Inter Milan, so perhaps it was not surprising that beating Southampton to his signature could not take the spotlight away from the capture of the highly-rated Sturridge from the Chelsea.
It did not take long for Coutinho to seize the stage however and, while Sturridge’s injury-ravaged career is in danger of becoming an afterthought, the Brazilian is now one of the game’s most coveted players.
Coutinho’s against-the-odds rise is a tribute to a tenacious personality inherited from his close-knit working-class family back home in the tough Rocha district of Rio de Janeiro.
Now married to childhood sweetheart Aine, Coutinho once said: “My family is the foundation of everything in my life.”
He has needed that secure background to survive the slings and arrows of a career that might be glittering now, but for several years was full of potential pitfalls.
Having honed his natural gifts while playing futsal, the smaller indoor version of the sport, with brothers Cristiano and Leandro, the diminutive Coutinho was offered a trial by Vasco da Gama.
But Coutinho was so shy he clung to his father while the other youngsters warmed up.
“After a short while and some motivation, I was fine. When I actually started to play, it was all normal and natural. I wasn’t shy anymore, I was enjoying it,” he recalled.
The road was to get rougher for Coutinho, who was snubbed by Real Madrid when the Spanish giants passed up the chance to sign him from his Brazilian club for just £2.2 million in 2008.
Instead, at age 16 he moved to Inter, where then manager Rafael Benitez hailed him as “the future of Inter”.
That bold prediction was quickly forgotten as Coutinho found it difficult to adjust to life in Italy, with loan spells at Vasco and Espanyol providing more first-team opportunities but little to suggest his future stardom.
Fortunately for Coutinho, Brendan Rodgers, then in charge at Liverpool, had spotted his potential when he helped Brazil win the Under-20 World Cup.
Coutinho accepted the challenge of moving to England, where the frenetic and physical pace of play can sometimes overwhelm foreign imports.
He hit the ground running and scored his first goal for Liverpool on his full debut in a 5-0 victory over Swansea in February 2013.
It helped that Coutinho is teetotal and a devout Christian with no time for the nightclub antics that have derailed the careers of so many of his peers.
That commitment to his craft fuelled Coutinho’s ascent and he quickly became an integral part of the Liverpool side that narrowly failed to end the club’s long wait to win the title in the 2013-14 season.
Once Liverpool’s star striker Luis Suarez was sold to Barcelona in 2014, it was Coutinho who assumed the mantle of the team’s driving force.
With 41 goals and countless assists in 152 league appearances for Liverpool, Coutinho was just as valuable to current boss Jurgen Klopp once he succeeded Rodgers.
But silverware has been elusive at Anfield and a yearning for success on the grandest stage made it inevitable that he would hand in a transfer request when Barcelona offered over £100 million to sign him in August last year.
Liverpool rejected Barca’s approaches then, but there has been no such declaration of intent since the transfer talk heated up again and the feeling grows that Coutinho will get his wish this time.
We’re over half way through the season and it’s all been about Manchester so far, but not United.
Well off the top of the table and having lost to Manchester City at Old Trafford, some would have written off Jose Mourinho’s side already.
But United are having a promising season – and are well on track to score more points and finish higher in the Premier League than last season.
The only problem is Pep Guardiola and Manchester City have changed the game and are currently 15 points ahead of the chasing pack.
Sitting second, United’s goal to win the league might be over but they have a chance to go on a positive run in the Champions League.
They face seasoned campaigners Sevilla in the second round – a tough but winnable match – and if they can get through that, who knows how far they can go?
On the pitch, Romelu Lukaku is a marquee striker but is he the man for the big occasion? If he was to get injured for an extensive period of time, the Red Devils would be in trouble, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford shoe-horned in out wide.
The Belgian needs to be complemented through the middle, and bringing in a top quality winger, would free up Martial and Rashford to shine effectively.
In the video above, Copa90 take a look at five ways Manchester United can salvage their season.
Liverpool have pledged to fully co-operate with any investigation arising out of an incident between forward Roberto Firmino and Everton’s Mason Holgate during the Reds’ 2-1 FA Cup win at Anfield.
The pair were involved in an angry exchange after the Toffees defender pushed the Brazilian into the front row of the Main Stand and words were exchanged which left the Everton player incensed.
Referee Bobby Madley is expected to refer to the flashpoint in his match report to the football Association and Liverpool have said they will assist in any way they can should further investigation be required.
“The club and player will fully co-operate with the relevant authorities to ensure the facts are established in a thorough manner if deemed necessary or requested,” said a Liverpool spokesman.
“While that process is ongoing we will not be making any further comment.”
Everton manager Sam Allardyce was asked in his post-match press conference whether the incident was sparked by an alleged racist comment and said: “I’m telling you nothing until whatever systems are used to find out exactly what happened and what didn’t happen.
“I’m here to talk about football, not about controversial incidents. I only want to talk about football.
“Anything else outside of that that happens has to be dealt with by the authorities.”
Asked whether he has spoken to Holgate, Allardyce added: “I wouldn’t tell anybody in this press conference because it is not about that for me.
“That is in the other areas of the football club so I’ve left that with the director of football (Steve Walsh) and said, ‘sort that out’.”
Walsh was seen in discussion with Everton’s media team in the Anfield tunnel after Allardyce’s press conference but the club have yet to make a comment, although Press Association Sport understands Everton did raise the incident with the match officials.
It is understood Firmino was not asked for his view on the incident immediately after the match but is prepared to give a statement to the FA should a request be made.
His manager Jurgen Klopp refused to be drawn on the issue.
“I only heard about something but I can’t say anything about it because so far I couldn’t speak to anybody and I think, from now on, first of all the club will answer,” he said.
“I don’t really know anything about it.
“I misjudged the situation obviously completely, because I thought it was about a Holgate foul.
“In the end there was no foul, no yellow card, nothing. I didn’t get it to be honest – there was a throw-in, was it?
“I didn’t understand the whole situation after the game. I got information that something obviously happened, but I can’t say anything about it.”
Soon after the final whistle Holgate deleted his Twitter account.