Finally reunited! Brazilian couple Philippe Coutinho and Allan were childhood friends from Rio de Janeiro and dazzled together as youngsters… now they’ll meet on Merseyside when Everton take on Aston Villa
- Philippe Coutinho says Everton midfielder Allan is like a brother to him
- The couple have known each other since adolescence in Vasco da Gama
- They will meet on the pitch when Everton play Aston Villa on Saturday
Old friends looking for a fresh start will reunite on Merseyside on Saturday.
“He’s like a brother to me,” Philippe Coutinho told Sportsmail when Allan signed for Everton in 2020. “We’re the same age, we played together in Vasco’s youth teams, we were both nervous in our first game as professionals and we played together in the national teams.
They collide at Goodison Park with Coutinho back in Liverpool City, for Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa, and with Allan preparing for life after Rafa Benitez and Duncan Ferguson back at the Everton keeper’s charge. The pair have become close friends with Vasco da Gama, a Rio de Janeiro giant who fell into the second tier of Brazilian football in 2009.
Old pals Philippe Coutinho and Allan reunite on the pitch as Aston Villa visit Everton
With no money for star players, they rebuilt themselves around a core of young talent under coach Dorival Junior.
“Coutinho was very young and a bit withdrawn,” says Dorival. “He showed his personality with the ball at his feet. Allan had a lot more aggression and was ready to be over the opponent in any way possible.
The teenagers took their chance. Coutinho was a year younger than Allan and was always considered the most gifted.
He stayed at Vasco but his transfer to Inter Milan was in place, even before he turned professional at 18. Allan’s strengths were his great speed and stamina, quick to get forward and quick to come back and defend.
Off the pitch, they have formed a close bond with Josef de Souza, who now plays for Besiktas in Turkey, and they have all lived together at the training complex. They loved playing tennis in the lead and playing video games before games.
“Allan will never confirm it, but I win most tennis matches in the lead,” jokes Coutinho. The trio still own homes close to each other in the same part of Rio and get together to play head tennis when they are back in Brazil on vacation.
Coutinho (right) is off to a good start on his return to the Premier League with Villa
At the time, however, they were all burning with ambition for a career in Europe. “We were so young and it was our biggest dream,” Souza says. ‘Allan has always been shy. He is very special, with a good heart and a big family. As a player we knew he would become a great midfielder.
Dorival, who was a defensive midfielder in his playing days, worked hard on tactically positioning Allan so he wouldn’t run into the ground in games and shaped his talent. “I could see him becoming a star,” says the 59-year-old. “Coutinho was the great player of this generation and Allan has grown over the years.
‘Vasco was in a bad situation and people kept saying ‘but they are children’. I would answer: “And if they are children, we must believe in our players”. It worked and we became champions.
Dorival knew they would have to go to Europe to complete their development. Coutinho joined Inter in 2010 and arrived at Liverpool three years later. Allan stayed at Vasco and won the Brazilian Cup playing at right-back, before being sold to Udinese in 2012 and then Napoli and Everton.
Everton midfielder Allan has been described by former Brazil team-mates as ‘always shy’
Dorival knows both men will have their eyes on the World Cup at the end of the year. Brazil have already qualified for Qatar and Coutinho has been called up for next week’s qualifiers. Allan is not part of the current team but remains very much in the mind of manager Tite.
“Coutinho has had a lot of great moments in his career, but that doesn’t mean he can’t achieve more,” Dorival says. “At Barcelona, maybe he didn’t have time to be confident, to play football like he is used to. Back in England, a place he doesn’t know like the others, he will find its way.
“Both will be on the list of players who could be in Qatar.
“They are of the highest level. Allan has shown great consistency. Coutinho will always be a genius.’