He was never really the replacement for Neymar, but the signing of Philippe Coutinho at least made Barcelona feel a little better about themselves. It was proof that, after losing the next best player on the planet the summer before, they could still attract superstars to Camp Nou. And Coutinho, as one of the best players in the Premier League, was undoubtedly a superstar.
Being a superstar isn’t a guarantee of being a success at Barcelona, though. Zlatan Ibrahimovic found that out, and now it appears Coutinho is too. The Brazilian has become a peripheral figure at the club in recent weeks, reduced to making cameo appearances off the bench and in the Copa del Rey.
It was expected that Ernesto Valverde would build around Coutinho. A replacement for Neymar he might never have been, but many predicted that he would step into the role vacated by Andres Iniesta at the end of last season. That hasn’t happened, though.
One wonders if Coutinho regrets his decision to leave Liverpool when did. After all, since the playmaker’s exit from Anfield just over a year ago Jurgen Klopp’s side have played in a Champions League final and are mounting a sustained title challenge, with the Reds currently four points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Of course, without the money collected from Barcelona for Coutinho Liverpool wouldn’t have been able to sign both Alisson Becker and Virgil Van Dijk, two players who have been integral in their recent development, but nonetheless, there’s a case that the Brazilian timed his departure poorly. He could have been a part of what is unfolding at Liverpool right now.
In some ways, it’s similar to the situation Isco, another mercurial playmaker, finds himself in at Real Madrid. He too has been ostracised from the first team, seemingly losing the faith of his manager. At the Santiago Bernabeu, there is no place for Isco any longer. Solari’s system doesn’t allow for a player of his type, and so it’s likely that the 26-year-old, whether it’s this month or in the summer, will leave Real Madrid.
Some are already speculating whether Coutinho could leave Barcelona too. It’s silly season, when ridiculous conjecture fills pages and pages of newsprint on a daily basis, but he has been linked with a move to Manchester United this month. Tentatively, it has also been suggested that Coutinho could one day return to Liverpool, as unlikely as both those scenarios might seem right now.
Indeed, Coutinho probably won’t leave Barca, at least not this month, but this illustrates how his career at Camp Nou has panned out so far. There have been glimpses of brilliance. Barcelona fans have become accustomed to his trademark cut inside and curling finish from distance, but in terms of his influence, even when he makes it on the pitch, Coutinho is peripheral.
Nobody expected him to outshine Lionel Messi, or even Luis Suarez. But Barcelona didn’t splurge a club record transfer fee of £145 million on Coutinho to be a passenger in their team. They planned on him being a central pillar of the side, a key part of their return to the top of the European game.
In hindsight, Coutinho never really possessed the footballing brain to be a central figure for Barcelona. His technical ability always outweighed his intelligence on and off the ball. That’s something Valverde has discovered since signing the player last January. Even still, it’s jarring to see a talent of such impact sitting on the bench.
Coutinho’s Barcelona career might still work out. He has won a league title and Copa del Rey since making the move to Spain, so don't feel too sorry for him. What’s more, it’s inevitable that Messi and Suarez will fade in the coming years, and in that could lie an opportunity for Coutinho to make his mark. For now, though, he has a lot to ponder, and a lot of time to do it from the bench.
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The post Where has it gone so badly wrong for Philippe Coutinho at Barcelona? appeared first on BetBright Blog.
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