Inter Milan boy wonder Philippe Coutinho has pleaded not to be dubbed 'the new Ronaldinho' as he begins his Italian adventure. The Brazilian attacking midfielder has received considerable hype since I Nerazzurri bought him from Vasco da Gama two years ago, when he was just 16.
He remained in his homeland until this season as Serie A rules stipulate that a foreigner cannot play for an Italian team until he has turned 18. And as Coutinho plays in a similar trequartista position, between the midfield and the attack, the comparisons with AC Milan's Ronaldinho were inevitable.
But the modest teenager wants to nip those in the bud straight away. "I'm just Coutinho, a kid who's getting better. Ronaldinho is an extra-terrestrial who's won everything," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"He is football. If we have a similarity it's maybe that we like to start on the left and head for goal. But please don't get us confused. I'd be happy to achieve half of his success."
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But while Coutinho is star-struck by his compatriot, he is also highly impressed by one of his own club team-mates: Wesley Sneijder. "He deserves the Golden Ball [FIFA Ballon d'Or]."
"I watch him in training and I'm enchanted, he's a legend. I'm trying to steal his secret, his speed of thought. His head flies, he sees things before the ball arrives. I need to be quick like Sniejder."
As for the future, Coutinho is hoping to form part of an attacking triumvirate in the Brazil team to rival the great Ronaldo-Ronaldinho-Rivaldo combination that guided A Seleção to 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ glory. The Inter No29, Milan's Alexandre Pato and Neymar of Santos are three youngsters for whom the country has high hopes.
"It would be a great trident but as for a central striker, pay attention to Andre at Dinamo Kiev," Coutinho said. "And you're forgetting Robinho, another phenomenon. Milan have made a great signing there."