What has happened to Coutinho?

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December 8, 2021
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    Barcelona midfielder Philippe CoutinhoPhilippe Coutinho remains Barcelona's record signing after joining the club for an initial £106m from Liverpool in 2018

    When Barcelona travel to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, it's unclear whether their record signing will take part.

    It's a must-win game for Xavi's team. Otherwise, a home victory for Benfica over already eliminated Dynamo Kyiv would see Barca fail to reach the Champions League knockout stage for the first time since 2004.

    Former Liverpool superstar Philippe Coutinho, however, is far from certain to play against his former club, having made a gradual slide from the third-most expensive player in history to a largely overlooked afterthought.

    What on earth has happened?

    • Who needs what in the Champions League?

    The dream became a nightmare

    The catalyst for Coutinho's arrival in Barcelona in January 2018 was a pair of key departures – Neymar's shock move to Paris St-Germain in August 2017 and the knowledge that club icon Andres Iniesta was soon heading through the exit door.

    Loaded with £200m from the enforced sale of Neymar and therefore in a weak bargaining position, Barca never hid the fact Coutinho was their number one target to become the 'new Iniesta' and the 'new Neymar' rolled into one.

    Liverpool resisted but eventually negotiated an initial £106m fee, allowing Coutinho to complete his "dream" move to the Catalan coast.

    But the dream soon became a nightmare. It was quickly apparent – as it probably always should have been – that Coutinho was not suited to either of his expected new roles. He wanted to play further forward than Iniesta's disciplined midfield role and more centrally than Neymar's left-wing slot.

    Instead, he preferred to roam more central areas and find space between the lines of the opposition midfield and defence. But Barca already had someone fulfilling that role and there was no way Coutinho would ever usurp Lionel Messi as the team's main creator.

    So Coutinho ended up generally getting in Messi's way, disrupting the team's rhythm by taking too many touches and reduced to hopeful long-range strikes with sporadic success – leading social media wits to sarcastically dub him 'Shootinho'.

    Loaned out, injured, unwanted

    Barcelona midfielder Philippe CoutinhoCoutinho scored 26 goals in 56 appearances for Liverpool between 2016 and 2018 – and has scored 26 goals in 103 appearances for Barcelona since

    The arrival of Antoine Griezmann in July 2019 further hindered Coutinho's hopes of becoming a key player and he was pushed out to Bayern Munich on a season-long loan that Barca hoped would lead to a permanent sale.

    But Coutinho was no more than a bit-part player in Germany too, starting less than half of Bayern's games. The highlight of his spell came in the Champions League against none other than his parent club Barca, scoring twice off the bench in the era-defining 8-2 quarter-final pummelling.

    Bayern rejected the chance to sign Coutinho permanently, preferring to spend their Covid-19 reduced budget on Leroy Sane from Manchester City, so the Brazilian was sent back to Barcelona in the summer of 2020.

    He found the club in a state of disarray. Messi was in open warfare with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who would soon be forced to resign, Luis Suarez led a line of established veterans who had been forced out, and new manager Ronald Koeman was struggling to impose his authority.

    Nevertheless, Coutinho made a promising start to the 2020-21 season and found favour with Koeman, becoming a regular in the starting line-up before his latest setback came in the form of a knee injury that sidelined him for eight months, scuppering financially desperate Barca's flagging hopes of selling him last summer.

    The outcome was another wasted season.

    Still a misfit… Newcastle-bound?

    When Coutinho returned in September, Koeman was in his last days in charge as the team stumbled from one crisis to another. Coutinho soon sparked controversy by warming up with miserable reluctanceexternal-link during interim boss Sergi Barjuan's final game at Celta Vigo.

    But if the 29-year-old thought Xavi's arrival would herald a fresh opportunity, those hopes were soon dashed.

    Coutinho was a late substitute in the new boss' first game – a 1-0 home win over Espanyol. But he was then left on the bench for the Champions League draw with Benfica despite the vital nature of the tie, Xavi preferring teenagers Yusuf Demir, Nico Gonzalez and Gavi to the club's record signing.

    He did score a late penalty off the bench against Villarreal, but Saturday's home loss against Real Betis was another disappointment. Coutinho got his first start under Xavi and made a decent early impression before fading badly and being replaced before the hour mark.

    Football analyst Domagoj Kostanjsak explained why Coutinho looks unlikely to enjoy a revival under Xavi, even now Messi has gone.

    He told BBC Sport: "With Xavi, width and verticality are more relevant than in the past. Xavi loves aggressive midfielders who make runs beyond the opposition's line and attack space with pace and power. Coutinho can't do that.

    "We're never going to see Coutinho's full potential at Barca unless the system is catered towards him, which is unlikely to say the least. He doesn't fit the winger or the midfielder roles – and the number 10 role he loves doesn't exist in such a way to accommodate his skill set."

    Indeed, Barca's greatest hope for Coutinho now is selling him – ideally to a cash-rich ambitious club like Newcastle – to reduce the club's debt and possibly even fund new signings such as Manchester City's Ferran Torres, who is a main target for Xavi.

    In the immediate future, though, Wednesday's decisive date with Bayern – like much of the past four years – is another game that could well pass Coutinho by.

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    755 commentsShowLatestOldestHighest RatedMost Replied

    • E

      Comment posted by extratorrestrial, at 09:17 7 Dec

      The best ever business from LFC got Van Dijk and Allison with Coutinho transfer fee. The grass is not always greener43013

      • Y

        Reply posted by You, at 09:19 7 Dec

        "The best ever business from LFC got Van Dijk and Allison with Coutinho transfer fee. The grass is not always greener"You replied: Barcelona is a much better place to live to be fair.244120

      More replies (68)

    • B

      Comment posted by BigMunB, at 09:46 7 Dec

      Liverpool offloading Coutinho and buying Alison and van Dyke with the money must go down as one of the greatest pieces of football business ever.33111

      • G

        Reply posted by Grumpy_Haggis, at 10:38 7 Dec

        "Liverpool offloading Coutinho and buying Alison and van Dyke with the money must go down as one of the greatest pieces of football business ever."Grumpy_Haggis replied: Even a clock is right twice a day46170

      More replies (43)

    • C

      Comment posted by Champ20ns, at 09:11 7 Dec

      Coutinho sums up Barcelona’s transfer dealings over the last several years.1991

      • W

        Reply posted by Woodzy knows his stuff, at 09:39 7 Dec

        "Coutinho sums up Barcelona’s transfer dealings over the last several years."Woodzy knows his stuff replied: Agree. They where lucky over the years with Messi. they built a team around him and paid way over the top for players like Griezmann & Dembele. They should have got a strong midfielder rather than all these strikers and wingers.651

      More replies (5)

    • T

      Comment posted by theoppositeofdanielfarkeon, at 09:34 7 Dec

      Nice bit of business from Liverpool, making a profit and also seeing the player they sold giving no advantage to his new club and making their situation worse.

      A lot like Juventus selling Pogba to Utd for £90 Million!

      They’re still laughing about it to this day.1957

      • Removed comment

      More replies (14)

    • Q

      Comment posted by Q_Q, at 09:17 7 Dec

      I’d he’d stayed at LFC, the chances are we wouldn’t have won either the CL or the PL.
      Money spent unwisely by Barca but very wisely by Liverpool.19911

      • T

        Reply posted by TheMiller, at 09:57 7 Dec

        "I’d he’d stayed at LFC, the chances are we wouldn’t have won either the CL or the PL. Money spent unwisely by Barca but very wisely by Liverpool."TheMiller replied: Probably not bad for Coutinho though either, since leaving Liverpool he’s won three domestic titles, three domestic cups, the UCL and the Copa America.6664

      More replies (33)

    • T

      Comment posted by theredfox, at 09:51 7 Dec

      Delighted it’s all gone wrong for Barca, they and Real Madrid with their illegal approaches to players under contract to unsettle them , encouraging them to ‘stop playing and down tools’ at their clubs. They have been getting away with it for years.16111

      • K

        Reply posted by Kristian, at 09:57 7 Dec

        "Delighted it’s all gone wrong for Barca, they and Real Madrid with their illegal approaches to players under contract to unsettle them , encouraging them to ‘stop playing and down tools’ at their clubs. They have been getting away with it for years."Kristian replied: All the EPL top 6 of guilty of this. One example is VVD was messaged constantly by Klopp when he was Saints and even met him in Blackpool. VVD then went and played with zero effort for Saints for 6 months before eventually selling him in January.8230

      More replies (20)

    • J

      Comment posted by jimbobslob, at 09:19 7 Dec

      It’s a shame but when your playing well and loved more often than not it’s best not to rock the boat. Football careers are over in a flash and Barca are a rotten club and love to tap other players up with no remorse. Liverpool can rightly feel smug.13414

      • T

        Reply posted by Telefunken U47, at 11:07 7 Dec

        "It’s a shame but when your playing well and loved more often than not it’s best not to rock the boat. Football careers are over in a flash and Barca are a rotten club and love to tap other players up with no remorse. Liverpool can rightly feel smug."Telefunken U47 replied: Seem to remember Liverpool tapping up Van Dijk, then Van Dijk refusing to play for his current club until transferred.8424

      More replies (11)

    • L

      Comment posted by Lewii87, at 09:38 7 Dec

      Excellent business for liverpool. Got him for 10 mil, got the best out of him, sell him for absurd profit. Perfection.1172

      • N

        Reply posted by Naz MCFC, at 09:43 7 Dec

        "Excellent business for liverpool. Got him for 10 mil, got the best out of him, sell him for absurd profit. Perfection."Naz MCFC replied: That seems to be the Liverpool owners way but what about the football club? If Salah goes, what do LFC have left? I am surprised that Liverpool fans buy into this. I’d want the proceeds of your CL and PL success to be ploughed back into the football club. That is what City have done.17119

      More replies (29)

    • H

      Comment posted by HullHammer, at 09:13 7 Dec

      Barca paid over the odds for him. Liverpool knew what they was doing, selling him for that amount of money.897

      • A

        Reply posted by AndrewMichael, at 10:12 7 Dec

        "Barca paid over the odds for him. Liverpool knew what they was doing, selling him for that amount of money."AndrewMichael replied: Another thing people forget is that Klopp improves players an incredible amount. Did this with Salah, Mane, Firmino, Robertson, Trent, etc, etc. And to an extent with Coutinho also. So when these players leave there may well be an inevitable decline.836

      More replies (6)

    • D

      Comment posted by D73, at 09:17 7 Dec

      As the saying goes the grass isn’t always greener, Coutinho’s antics when he tried to force the move from Liverpool was petty and unprofessional. He could have progressed further under Klopp if he stayed but Karma has stalled his career.834

      • M

        Reply posted by maniia, at 10:32 7 Dec

        "As the saying goes the grass isn’t always greener, Coutinho’s antics when he tried to force the move from Liverpool was petty and unprofessional. He could have progressed further under Klopp if he stayed but Karma has stalled his career."maniia replied: To be honest even at Liverpool he was a bit inconsistent, and we needed to move him out and change the shape of the team to move to the next level.
        If he’d stayed I think his career would have looked the same as at Barca263

      More replies (5)

    • M

      Comment posted by mal123, at 10:01 7 Dec

      Klopp said it best, as he usually does, ‘stay and they will build a statue of you, go and you will just be another player’.781

      • T

        Reply posted by thelantern1212, at 11:16 7 Dec

        "Klopp said it best, as he usually does, ‘stay and they will build a statue of you, go and you will just be another player’."thelantern1212 replied: Which is typical Klopp arrogance, nothing less.1396

      More replies (16)

    • C

      Comment posted by Can we have our ball back , at 09:33 7 Dec

      Coutinho – one midfielder, undoubtedly gifted = basically the cost of our major weakness (defence) to have TAA, Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson and Alisson the season we won the title. Thank you Michael Edwards, Jurgen Klopp and Coutinho’s agent751

      • D

        Reply posted by Dallas Cowboys Liverpool FC, at 14:55 7 Dec

        "Coutinho – one midfielder, undoubtedly gifted = basically the cost of our major weakness (defence) to have TAA, Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson and Alisson the season we won the title. Thank you Michael Edwards, Jurgen Klopp and Coutinho’s agent"Dallas Cowboys Liverpool FC replied: A fine example of doing a move (that was very unpopular with the fans at the time), that results in further moves which obtain success.
        Sometimes, fans just need to trust the front office and let it all play out (no pun intended).120

      More replies (2)

    • J

      Comment posted by Jiggery Pokery, at 09:21 7 Dec

      When vanity, cash & Barça come knocking, what do you do….??

      Force a move…?

      Refuse to play for Liverpool FC…?

      Thanks for the £146m Phil…

      We spent it well ..

      Red tide rising.687

      • Removed comment

      More replies (8)

    • M

      Comment posted by MrBlueBurns, at 09:22 7 Dec

      A defining moment in Barcelona’s history. And one for Liverpool as well. Barcelona believed their own hype and Liverpool used the money extremely well. Look at their respective path’s since this transfer. I still sit here now and think “£140m?!”.543

      • L

        Reply posted by Lets Agree To Disagree, at 15:19 7 Dec

        "A defining moment in Barcelona’s history. And one for Liverpool as well. Barcelona believed their own hype and Liverpool used the money extremely well. Look at their respective path’s since this transfer. I still sit here now and think “£140m?!”."Lets Agree To Disagree replied: And Coutinho believed that he was the next great South American to play in Spain. Sadly he was proved wrong.20

    • C

      Comment posted by Carlos, at 09:29 7 Dec

      It is both a sad shame and waste of talent that this lad has pretty much been lost to the game since he left England. I get that Barca is a dream move for south american’s but if ever anyone needed proof that the grass isn’t always greener, this would be it. Throw in other’s that left Klopp’s side, Wijnaldum, Can, among others … and you realise it was the team that worked for them … sad.490

      • K

        Reply posted by kinabalu, at 09:42 7 Dec

        "It is both a sad shame and waste of talent that this lad has pretty much been lost to the game since he left England. I get that Barca is a dream move for south american’s but if ever anyone needed proof that the grass isn’t always greener, this would be it. Throw in other’s that left Klopp’s side, Wijnaldum, Can, among others … and you realise it was the team that worked for them … sad."kinabalu replied: South Americans98

      More replies (4)

    • M

      Comment posted by mustardcustard, at 09:10 7 Dec

      If he’d stayed at Liverpool, he would have been where Mo Salah is now, three years ago. Be careful what you wish for.505

      • T

        Reply posted by Tungsten Anchor, at 09:18 7 Dec

        "If he’d stayed at Liverpool, he would have been where Mo Salah is now, three years ago. Be careful what you wish for."Tungsten Anchor replied: A lot of people predicted that this would happen.

        1 – Advised by a greedy agent sensing a nice percentage
        2 – Something about South American players short circuits the minute RM or barca comes calling
        3 – Liverpool built the team around him, Barca built their team around Messi – this had car crash written all over it.861

      More replies (4)

    • Y

      Comment posted by Yasir, at 09:19 7 Dec

      Great piece of business by Liverpool and they improved by not having to fit the team around him.452

    • O

      Comment posted by One4All, at 09:20 7 Dec

      Think Newcastle are the only club that can afford him now… Quite fitting424

    • C

      Comment posted by cxp, at 09:09 7 Dec

      Your caption says 2008 instead of 2018291

      • J

        Reply posted by Jiggery Pokery, at 09:23 7 Dec

        "Your caption says 2008 instead of 2018"Jiggery Pokery replied: It’s mubbc…

        We’re used to it…

        Journalistic integrity of…

        The S**.229

      More replies (3)

    • M

      Comment posted by matt, at 09:11 7 Dec

      Joined Barca in 2008? Nope240

      • J

        Reply posted by John Jones, at 09:24 7 Dec

        "Joined Barca in 2008? Nope"John Jones replied: Yeah it’s been updated in the article. I thought the same, 13 years at Barca!?11

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