THREE months ago, the names Mauricio Pochettino and Philippe Coutinho would have meant little to all but the most clued-up of Liverpool supporters.
In January, however, the three became involved in a tug of war as Brendan Rodgers sought to further bolster his squad.
Coutinho was seemingly on his way to Anfield from Inter Milan until the arrival of Pochettino at Southampton as replacement in the hot seat for the harshly-jettisoned Nigel Adkins.
The Brazilian had played under Pochettino during a loan spell at Espanyol last season during which he regained his appetite for the game after a difficult spell at the San Siro.
Liverpool, though, eventually snared their man, the 20-year-old deciding to decline Southampton’s advances and make an £8.5million move.
Now Coutinho’s path will cross that of Pochettino once again with Rodgers’ men putting their recent revival to the test on the South Coast on Saturday.
It represents another opportunity for the tricky midfielder to build on a burgeoning reputation following an encouraging start to life at Anfield.
In four appearances, Coutinho netted on his full debut against Swansea City and created two goals in the 4-0 romp at Wigan Athletic.
And last Sunday, it was his combination with Jose Enrique down the left flank – which included an outrageous backheel that left the Anfield crowd purring in appreciation – that paved the way for Luis Suarez’s opener in the dramatic 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” says Enrique. “In four games he has two assists and one goal so I hope he will continue like this scoring goal and making assists.
“He is the type of a player, as a big team, you have to have. He can create from nothing in a one v one.
“He is playing really well right now and he is the type of player we need. Defenders are important but you need people who can score goals and we have now.”
Steven Gerrard has been similarly taken by Coutinho, having linked expertly with the Brazilian in the build-up to the Brazilian’s sliderule assist for Suarez at the DW Stadium.
“He's got moments of magical brilliance,” says the skipper. “I think you'll see the best of him next session when he gets a full pre-season under his belt and gets used to the speed of the game.
“What he has shown for 55 or 60 minutes is that he's a top player and he belongs in a Liverpool shirt.
“If we can get that for 90 minutes from him next season then he's going to be a great asset for us.”