Philippe Coutinho admires three Aston Villa stars as transfer stance becomes clear

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Philippe Coutinho believes Aston Villa can push for European qualification under Steven Gerrard, according to reports. Coutinho is said to be a fan of the squad that has been assembled at Villa Park as he closes in on a move back to the Premier League.

Barcelona are keen to offload Coutinho in this window and Villa are now favourites to secure his signature.

Up to six English clubs have been linked with the Brazilian in recent days.

But a reunion with Steven Gerrard seems to be on the agenda.

Coutinho and Gerrard played alongside each other for two years at Liverpool.

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Gerrard is now the manager of Villa after replacing the sacked Dean Smith earlier this season.

Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol claims Coutinho has been sold by the project Gerrard is building.

And Solhekol, who has close contacts to those involved in the deal, named three Villa players who have caught the eye of the 29-year-old Brazil international.

They are striker Ollie Watkins and Argentina duo Emi Buendia and Emi Martinez.

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“Speaking to people on the player’s side of the deal, my feeling about this is that he would be interested in joining Aston Villa,” Solhekol said on Sky Sports News.

“He knows people at Aston Villa, of course he knows Steven Gerrard, he knows Christian Purslow from his time at Liverpool as well.

“He feels that Aston Villa are an up-and-coming club. Steven Gerrard and the owners and Christian Purslow have big plans for Aston Villa.

“He knows the kind of quality in the Aston Villa squad, players like Ollie Watkins, Emi Buendia, Emi Martinez as well.

“And he feels that if he was at Aston Villa, if he was playing there regularly, he could help them get up the table and maybe get into Europe.

“So I think that is definitely on the cards.”

Gerrard was asked about the potential of signing Coutinho at his press conference on Thursday.

He refused to speak about any rumours linking his club with a move for the forward.

However, he could not hide his admiration for a player he calls a friend.

Gerrard said: “I can understand why a lot of supporters up and down the country are speaking about him.

“I don’t think you get a nickname as a magician if you’re not a special footballer, so he’s someone I have an incredible amount of respect for.

“I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about the player, he’s a friend of mine, so if I’m asked the questions I can speak for as long as you want.”

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