18th March – Danny Murphy

Danny Murphy is now a pundit for the BBC and is doing a decent job but during his playing career he was slightly underrated and one that was usually a valuable member of any side.

Now at the age of 38 the former midfielder can look back on his career with pride after playing over 700 professional games but he will also be disappointed as he only got nine England caps even though he was one of the most consistent English midfielders during the 2000s. After being in the headlines for the wrong reasons recently but whenever he has been on Match of the Day he has been a lot better than some of the other new pundits that have been on this season.

Murphy started his career at Crewe and made his debut as a 16 year old against Preston after coming off the bench and would go on to score the winner. He spent the early years of his career as a deep lying striker rather than a midfielder and in his final season he would hit 10 goals as the club got promoted to the second tier of English football in 1997.

Murphy CA

He wouldn’t play for the club after promotion though as he joined Liverpool and made his debut on the opening day of the 1997-98 season against Wimbledon. After making 17 league appearances over the next two seasons, he rejoined Crewe on loan and played a vital role in the club avoiding relegation. On his return to Liverpool he found a new position as a wide midfielder and this proved to be a very successful change. Over the next few years he won the League Cup twice, the FA Cup, the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup and was a key member of the side but his best season unfortunately fell on Liverpool’s worst as he scored 12 goals and was voted the supporters’ player of the year at the end of the 2002-03 season. During his time at Liverpool he also became a fan favourite because he scored the only goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford three times.

Murphy Liverpool

But in August 2004, after playing 170 league games for Liverpool, Murphy joined Charlton Athletic. After a difficult first season, he found form in his second as he was named September Player of the Month and was linked with a call up to the England squad which arguably should have happened. This form meant that he was linked away from the club and on the 31st January 2006 he joined Tottenham Hotspur. It was not a very successful spell for him there though as he struggled to break into the first team and only played 22 Premier League games in a season and a half.

On the 31st August Murphy joined Fulham and he once again showed his ability and was part of the team that successfully avoided relegation when it looked like they would be going down for large periods of the season. On the 11th May he scored the only goal against Portsmouth which guaranteed their safety. In the following season he scored some important goals too, including his 100th club goal and yet another winner against Manchester United. The 2009-10 season started badly with the midfielder missing the first two months of the season with injury but ended with him captaining the club to the Europa League final which they unfortunately lost 2-1 to Atletico Madrid.

Murphy Fulham

Murphy stayed at Fulham for another two seasons, playing over 40 times in both campaigns, but was surprisingly not given a contract extension and signed for Blackburn Rovers. He would only stay one season before retiring but was named club captain and was praised by Gary Bowyer for his contributions during a time of uncertainty at the club, with many managerial changes.

The final word can go to Steve Kean. “His record is there for all to see. He is a model professional, who has a real hunger to keep playing football and we are thrilled. This is a pivotal signing for us. Being able to bring Danny on board is a massive boost for everyone.”

12th June – Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho had a very good season at Liverpool and in a lot of people’s opinions was very unlucky to have been left out of Brazil’s World Cup squad.

But the midfielder is only 22 and his time will surely come again and now he can concentrate fully on helping Liverpool challenge for the title again next season and show off his skills in the Champions League. He has always had a lot of potential and it is no wonder that there are a lot of people including Brendan Rodgers who believe that Coutinho will get better and become one of the best players in the world.

From an early age he impressed everyone and was signed by Inter Milan at the age of just 16, however he was allowed to stay at first club Vasco da Gama until his 18th birthday. While at the Brazilian club he played 26 times and scored two goals before he moved to Italy in July 2010 and in the same year he played for the Brazil national team so there was already a lot of spotlight on the playmaker.
Coutinho Vasco
On the 27th August he made his debut in the UEFA Super Cup as a substitute, unfortunately they lost the game 2-0 against Atletico Madrid. Although he did not play as many minutes as he would have liked, he did provide a moment of magic in the Champions League as he helped his team beat Bayern Munich 3-2 in the quarter finals. And then on the 8th May 2011 he scored his first goal for the club with a wonderful free kick against Fiorentina in a 3-1 win.

The 2011-12 season wasn’t as successful for the Brazilian as he only played 11 times for Inter but he was loaned out to Spanish side Espanyol where he showed his ability. Once he got going he was difficult to stop and he scored some brilliant goals in La Liga. He scored twice in a 5-1 win over Rayo Vallecano and then followed this up with a sublime volley against Racing Santander and then a great free kick against Malaga. In total he scored five times in just 16 appearances and this meant he was going back to Inter full of confidence.
Coutinho Inter
He did enjoy a little more success but he only lasted another half a season as he joined Liverpool for £8.5 million on the 26th January 2013. His debut was not a good one for the club once again though as he came on as a substitute in a 2-0 loss to West Brom. But less than a week later he scored on his full debut in a 5-0 win over Swansea City and then a few weeks later set up the first two goals in 4-0 win over Wigan Athletic. He continued to impress in his first half a season and finished it with three goals in 13 appearances.
Coutinho Liverpool
After a frustrating start to the next season due to injuries, he opened the scoring in the Merseyside derby on the 23rd November and then towards the end of the season he scored another crucial goal against Manchester City which put Liverpool seven points clear at the top of the table. However, his five goals and his brilliant performances were not enough to secure the title.

The final word can go to his manager at Espanyol Mauricio Pochettino. “As with most Brazilians, Philippe has a special magic in his feet. He also has amazing work rate and that makes us doubt whether he fits the mould of a typical Brazilian player. What is important about him is he is a good lad, a good kid – a great humble person.”