Will Philippe Coutinho come-back in England ?
The future of Philippe Coutinho has been subject to speculation for the best part of six months now, since it was clear that his £114m move to Barcelona had turned sour. Liverpool used the windfall to buy Alisson and Virgil van Dijk and won the Champions League, while Barca are now desperately trying to offload the Brazilian.
There has been talk of him being used as bait in a deal that would see Neymar return to Barcelona, Liverpool were quick to rule out an emotional return to Anfield, Coutinho’s representative Kia Joorabchian says a move to Manchester United is out of the question due to his Liverpool links while Chelsea, would could have been in need of his services, are serving a transfer ban.
In recent days, frantic links have been circulated, denied and re-circulated again as he has been linked with loan moves to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Bookies have decisively slashed odds on ex-Liverpool maestro joining the latter, following a string of bets on the move and football betting tips website Free Super Tips reveals one bookie has cut odds from 40/1 just days ago, all the way into 5/1, that the forward makes the move to North London this summer.
Coutinho’s career has come to a crossroads and he clearly needs to leave the Nou Camp and start again. He is not alone in finding his future up in the air in the final days of the window.
Juventus are keen to use Paulo Dybala as a bargaining chip, James Rodriguez is still with Real Madrid after strong links with Napoli and Christian Eriksen looks set to take Coutinho’s place at Barca. This is instructive, freestyle playmakers are going out of fashion in European football. Arsenal retain Mesut Özil against their will because nobody will take on his salary.
Eriksen is more in demand than Coutinho, Dybala, James and Özil because he is a much more modern style of number 10, capable of closing opponents down from the front. Pressing has become very much en vogue in European football in recent years and players like Coutinho, Özil and James struggle with those demands.
Even at Liverpool, Klopp moved Coutinho into a midfield role because his turbo charged front three does not really require a mercurial playmaker to function. For Brazil, Coutinho has played on the left, the right and in a number 8 role without ever truly making any of them his own. Managers are struggling to accommodate him against the whims of modern football.
Barcelona bought him as the heir apparent to Andres Iniesta, but that role has proved unsuitable for him too. His game is built on individual feats- driving forwards and shooting at goal from range. It’s nice to watch when it comes off, but too often it doesn’t and teams like Barcelona don’t tolerate wastage and inefficiency.
Coutinho needs to improve his tactical intelligence if he wants to be a number 8, or else up his physical output if he wants to be a number 10. At the moment, he is in danger of drifting, literally, tactically and metaphorically. A team willing to build around his talents would seem to be the best move, but it’s unlikely he will be afforded such a privilege on a temporary loan deal and it’s unlikely that a club at the level below the elite will be able to pay what Barcelona want. Coutinho’s career is in very real danger of drift.