Italian site FC Inter News is reporting that Aston Villa have made an inquiry about Inter Milan midfielder Philippe Coutinho. The 20-year-old has struggled for regular playing time under Massimo Moratti, and his vision and goal scoring ability would add a much-needed dimension to Villa's midfield. Though this report is the first to include direct quotes from the player and his agent confirming Villa's interest, the rumor has been kicking around for a while, and the most typical fee mentioned is in the neighborhood of £8 million.
Though Coutinho has had some difficulty breaking into Inter's first team, he has demonstrated the ability to succeed at a high level, scoring 5 goals in 16 games while on loan with Espanyol last season. The young playmaker has only made 27 appearances for I Nerazzurri since moving from Vasco da Gama, and given his success in La Liga it's not difficult to imagine his current lack of playing time is frustrating. Whether it's frustrating enough to compel him to move to Aston Villa remains to be seen.
This is certainly the most legitimate-seeming transfer rumor to this point in the transfer window, but it's still a long way from looking imminent. The quotes from the player's agent did not convey a real sense that things are especially far along, and even if there was an agreement in place there's some question as to whether Coutinho would be eligible for a work permit. And perhaps most importantly, he'd have to be convinced that the move is a positive one for his career (or at the very least his bank account.) If Gaston Ramirez can be compelled to join Southampton there's little reason to believe Coutinho couldn't be convinced to move to Aston Villa, but Paul Lambert would likely have to make quite the sales pitch.
UPDATE: Inter Milan have reportedly refused Aston Villa's €10 million bid for Coutinho. It remains to be seen if Villa will make an improved offer.