Coutinho at Barcelona from Liverpool was one of the most anticipated transfers that ever happened. Philippe Coutinho was this magnificent player that can help with the transition without Neymar and Andrés Iniesta. He was the guy that could fit in any tactic, could fit in the profile and style of play of Barcelona; he dreamt of becoming a player at this club, and yet when it happened… actually what happened with the perfect fit?
In the last few years, there has been this notion coming out from Barcelona that anybody unable for whatever reason to contribute to the team, is thrown straight into the bin. There is no patience, and there is no plan followed. A decision made with the interest of the future gets scrapped the second there is an issue. The path for success in this club seems to be, “you contribute right away, or you have no place in the club.”
We have already seen this trend with the likes of Griezmann, Dembele, Malcom, and many others where limited opportunity not correlating with the transfer fee paid occurred and rarely those players are turning out to be quality additions to the team.
They have their moments of brilliance and leaves us wondering what it could’ve been, but for the most part, the performances and more importantly, for this article, the fit was not perfect it seemed.
Traits of Coutinho
Let’s start with what Philippe Coutinho is on the football pitch. Combining excellent technique, great vision, and the ability to pick a pass out, Coutinho was renowned as one of the most promising playmakers in world football.
Reliable set-piece taker, extremely agile combined with the versatility he provides there were not many things pointing against the acquisition of a player of that caliber. He was viewed as the ideal heir-apparent to Andrés Iniesta and considering the fact Coutinho almost mimics Andrés Iniesta’s heat map it was indeed a no-brainer from a tactical standpoint. Coutinho fit perfectly to what Barcelona wanted to be.
Let’s not forget that in his time in Liverpool and Barcelona Philippe Coutinho was never a part of a scandal, nor anybody had anything negative to say about his character. He was considered a genuinely good guy that dreamt of playing for Barcelona.
Coutinho at Liverpool
Philippe Coutinho was supposed to come to Barcelona in the summer of 2017. Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp in particular, refused to talk about a sale of their best player at the time to Barcelona after Luis Suarez made the trip from Anfield to the Nou Camp a few years prior.
Liverpool wanted to make a statement that they are not a selling club. Mohamed Salah arrived from Roma, and the famous front three was here Mane – Firmino – Salah. Philippe Coutinho was supposed to be a vital part of that team, even though his dream move fell through. He was the guy linking both midfield and attack and spraying passes forward as part of a midfield three consisting of Wijnaldum – Henderson – Coutinho. Emre Can, James Milner, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain provided depth and options in the middle of the park. The puzzle was complete.
How many players you can think of that played worse after the alleged deal fell through, or the club didn’t respect their desire to change? Would I be wrong to suggest that performing below your usual standards is likely to happen?
If you can’t just think of any situations like the one I am describing, look at the latest such case, Lionel Messi. He wanted to leave; he did not go. Did he perform better or worse? I think we got the idea.
Coutinho at Barcelona
After the unsuccessful tries of Barcelona to sign Coutinho and the prospects of a deal never happening, Philippe Coutinho played his heart out for Liverpool. No, he was not happy, and yes, people in the club and fans knew he wanted to leave. But they still went out there and supported him.
Philippe Coutinho never gave less than everything he got. He played in 20 more games for Liverpool after that summer. Scored 12 times and provided eight assists, he was in a spectacular form that autumn.
Philippe Coutinho gave no other options to Barcelona. They had to buy him. And eventually, in January, they did. After a slow start and failing to score or assist in his first four games for Los Cules, Coutinho finished the season scoring nine times and providing seven assists in the next 18 matches, and starting 16 out of 22 times. A goal and an assist in the Copa del Rey Final in 0-5 win vs Sevilla. Statistically, his career-year was complete. Scoring 21 times and assisting for 15 more, combined with a mid-season boyhood dream come true plus a league title meant that he had the foundation for an absolute renaissance in Barcelona.
But all that was on paper as we all know dry stats not always say the full story. Although contributing to statistical performance, the usage in that period was mainly on the left-wing or the right-wing, and never really found the creative freedom and confidence to express himself.
However, let’s recap the situation from Barcelona’s point of view. After the departure of Neymar, there was a lack of that familiar treat from the left. Barcelona tried to negate that absence with more creativity in Coutinho and sharpness on the wing with Dembele. Coutinho should be able to create from the midfield and have Dembele – Suarez – Messi upfront. That offensive line up makes a ton of sense.
With Dembele struggling with muscle injuries and the good performances of Arthur and purchase of Paulinho, Coutinho had to play on the left and fight for his spot with coming in and out Dembele. With the later following, scintillating display with dreadful performance meant that neither player could find their rhythm in the squad.
The team chemistry was lacking, and more importantly, your most expensive transfer in the club’s history to date has to be somebody else.
Not really welcomed when he was trying to run the show and getting booed off the pitch by your home fans helps a lot. Ask Gareth Bale. Being presented as somebody that can step in Iniesta shoes, but to look at and demanded that you produce as a €145 million world-class winger did not make much sense either.
From Andrés Iniesta’s successor to the executor of Barcelona
It made no sense from a tactical standpoint. It made no sense from a recruiting perspective to spend €145 million in January on the replacement of Andrés Iniesta(while he is still in the team) that can’t play in the Champions League.
It made no sense whatsoever that you follow that alleged midfield addition of Coutinho with three new signings in the summer of Arthur, Arturo Vidal, and Kevin Prince Boateng. Following summer you acquire a new central midfield player because you don’t like how Coutinho is performing, although he was being asked to be somebody other than himself on the pitch.
Most of the time we try to get vengeance too quickly, or in our anger, we seek revenge and hardly keep calm and say “It’s it the hands of the Lord. I did my part.” On the night that every Barcelona supporter’s wish never came to existence, Philippe Coutinho showed why he was the right man for the job. He showed that what he was expressing and his affection for this club is not only words.
If you don’t believe me let’s try to put yourself in his shoes. You get subbed on for the last 15 mins, and you give an assist and score two goals to inflict the biggest defeat in European history for Barcelona. And you were hurt like you were on that team, although they did not need you anymore, apparently.
The culmination of a period of absolutely disgraceful operational decisions, deep financial crisis, and massaging egos, ended fitting the occasion – embarrassing yourself and competitors around the sport with the lack of effort and desire to fight against adversity.