Roughly one year ago, Philippe Coutinho was a sought-after player that was a consensus Top-10 attacking midfielder in the world. The Brazilian had dazzled the Premier League with his play for Liverpool, and it wasn’t a secret that he was keen to move elsewhere. Eventually, FC Barcelona signed him for a huge transfer fee that made him one of the most expensive players in world football history.
Fast forward to February 2019, and there’s a lot of uncertainty regarding the future of Coutinho. Even though he has – mostly – produced at a high level when given the chance, the 2018-19 season hasn’t gone as expected for the 26-year-old.
Removed from the starting XI due to the emergence of Ousmane Dembele, Coutinho has not been playing significant minutes for Barca since quite a while. Plus, it seems he just doesn’t fit with Ernesto Valverde’s tactics, and he is often left wandering on the pitch. To make things even more complicated, Coutinho has been utterly disappointing in his last few displays. He looked lost in the previous matches against Valencia and Real Madrid, so that shouldn’t bode well for his chances going forward.
Considering the context, there’s only question left to be made. What should Barca do with Coutinho? Well, here are a few alternatives.
Send him back to the Premier League next summer
Coutinho has said time and time again that he is a keen admirer of the English Premier League. And this might not have anything to do with the fact that he reached his footballing peek at Liverpool. The pace and intensity of the EPL suits him quite well, and it wouldn’t be strange if he decides to return to England.
If that’s the case, there might be several suitors. Chelsea and Manchester United have already been linked with a move for the former Inter Milan star. The Red Devils are said to be “ahead” on the race to acquire Coutinho. However, any potential move would have to wait until July. There are options that would bring him back to the EPL, if that’s what he wants…
Part ways with him and send him to the highest bidder
…but ultimately, the player’s future is in Barca’s hands. And it wouldn’t be odd if Barca decide to let clubs engage on a bidding war for the Brazilian, who has scored 13 goals in 45 caps with La Selecao. If that’s the case, we all know which teams are likely to get involved, right?
Yes, you guessed it. We can expect Chelsea, Manchester City, and PSG to engage in a bidding war for Coutinho. After all, this is a player who, when motivated and at his best, could be a game-changing player in any top league. We are leaving Real Madrid out of this race for obvious reasons, mind you. If Barca’s goal is to recover what they spent on Coutinho, then this is the most likely alternative.
Keep him on the squad and wait for him to bounce back
At least right now, this is the most likely scenario. Knowing Barca paid €135M for his services, their stance on a potential sale is quite clear. Coutinho is not going anywhere unless they can receive an offer that would allow them to recover most of the money they spent on him in 2018.
This seems unlikely, considering his poor performances and the lack of suitors available to offer around €100M. But if he can’t perform at a higher level, don’t be surprised if the club’s stance changes come July.
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Juan Pablo Aravena