As Philippe Coutinho played an inspiring role in Liverpool's comprehensive 6-0 rout at Newcastle in April, former Reds playmaker Peter Beardsley's breath was taken away.

The 52-year-old understands attacking talent better than most, having struck 59 goals in 175 appearances for Kenny Dalglish's unforgettable Reds team in the late 1980s which lifted two league titles.

Beardsley now works as a football development manager for the Magpies and would happily point to the 'outstanding' Coutinho as an example to follow.

"I watched him closely that day and he ran the game against us," the Englishman told the Liverpool Echo.

"He has such a great understanding of the game. Good players like that know when to get rid of the ball. On the odd occasion he gets caught, but not often.

"He's very clever - he's always aware of where his teammates are and how they want the ball. Some of his passing takes your breath away and he has a great attitude as well.

"It was a smart signing by Brendan. I don't think anyone saw it coming and he was a real bargain.

"I love Coutinho; he is outstanding and has unbelievable ability. He's better than I ever was and I really mean that. He's miles better than me.

"If he stays here for a long time he's got a chance of being as big as Kenny - that kind of stature. I look at his ability and I think he could be the new Kenny Dalglish. He is a very special player.

"He's very much a team player. Look at the pleasure he got from the goal Daniel Sturridge scored against Stoke last weekend. It was only a small thing but I liked that. He's happy for other people.

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"Players like that will give the ball away at times because they take risks. But even when it doesn't quite come off, there is excitement among the fans because they can see what he was trying to do.

"A knowledgeable Anfield crowd have taken him to their hearts. They expect all their players, no matter how talented, to work hard and he certainly does that.

"He's an interceptor rather than a tackler but he will run and run and put people under pressure."

The Reds kicked off their Barclays Premier League quest with a 1-0 victory over Stoke City on Saturday as they attempt to secure a return to Champions League football.

Beardsley considers the objective achievable this season with the help of Sturridge's goalscoring exploits and the 'shrewd' summer signing of defender Kolo Toure.

"Liverpool are certainly on the way back under Brendan," he said. "Brendan is a good manager and has got them playing a good brand of football.

"How quickly he can get them back into the top four will be interesting. When you look at it, you would have to say the top three will be the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea.

"Arsenal and Tottenham fought it out for fourth spot last season and Liverpool will want to be in that battle this time.

"It's tough because Man City, Spurs and Chelsea have spent a lot and it looks like United are ready to spend too.

"But if Daniel Sturridge keeps scoring goals and Luis Suarez comes back after his ban and does well then it's achievable.

"In a funny way one of the hardest things facing Brendan is trying to replace Jamie Carragher. What he did for that football club was incredible.

"He was very shrewd getting Kolo Toure in and Liverpool will need him to fill that gap with all his experience, knowledge and knowhow."