Coutinho sale timing stuns Carragher, with Liverpool risking top-four finish

Liverpool’s decision to sell Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona during the winter window has stunned Jamie Carragher, with a top-four risk taken at Anfield.

The Reds were able to fend off advances from Camp Nou last summer, but eventually bowed to pressure when interest was rekindled in January.

A €160 million deal means they have been handsomely rewarded for parting with a Brazilian playmaker, but they have lost a key cog in a devastating attacking arsenal.

Carragher believes a gamble has been taken on Champions League qualification, with it difficult to see why Liverpool did not fight harder to keep Coutinho until the summer.

The Reds legend wrote in a column for the Daily Telegraph: “I cannot understand Liverpool’s decision to sell Coutinho now. Not mid-season.

“No matter how much I hear about boyhood dreams; efforts to convince him to stay; and how much family, representatives, or even sponsors pushed for it, why this month?

“The financial reward is vast. So is the risk.

“But I still fear a mid-season deal unnecessarily jeopardises Liverpool’s Champions League place for next season. 

“If they do not finish in the top four, everyone will point at Coutinho’s sale.”

Philippe Coutinho Jamie Carragher why now

Carragher added: “Regardless of how much Coutinho agitated, Liverpool could have stood firm.

“While some players, such as Alexis Sanchez and Virgil van Dijk, lost form after being denied their summer move, Coutinho was the opposite.

“He has never played better for Liverpool than between September and December this season.

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“I am sure the Brazilian would have recovered from his disappointment for four more months.”

Liverpool sit inside the Premier League’s top four at present, but only three points clear of Tottenham and five ahead of Arsenal.

That battle looks set to go down to the wire once again, with the Reds now unable to call upon the mercurial talents of a player who had contributed 12 goals and eight assists to their cause across all competitions.


I want to be the next Coutinho, says Lyon prodigy Mohamed Bahlouli

Lyon youngster Mohamed Bahlouli has said that he aims to emulate Barcelona ace Philippe Coutinho as he begins to make his way in the game.

The 17-year-old has yet to make his debut for OL but promises to be the next in the line of a long list of academy graduates, which include the likes of Karim Benzema, Alexandre Lacazette, Corentin Tolisso and Nabil Fekir, to graduate through the academy and star for the first team.

Although Bahlouli, whose older brother Fares came through the same system and now turns out for Lille, is a big fan of Lionel Messi, it is his new team-mate, signed for €160 million, who really interests him.

“Lionel Messi is impossible to imitate,” he told Goal. “The one I’m looking at is Philippe Coutinho. I watch his games and his videos on YouTube. 

“He has everything a modern attacking midfielder needs. He is capable expressing himself by dribbling, scoring or setting up other, all the time positioning himself to keep his team balanced.”

Mohammed Bahlouli

Bahlouli, meanwhile, admits that he has a tendency to be too focused on his attacking game, having scored 38 goals in his last 42 outings with Lyon’s youth team.

“I would say that I am a technical player with a good vision of the game,” he explained. “I love going forward but I have to come back faster, make defensive work natural because it is not. I’m working hard to make it automatic.

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“I have only short-term goals: to have the chance to train with professionals, to be in the squad and to sign my first professional deal.”

Bahlouli’s family has a strong attachment with the club. As well as Fares, his younger brother Djibrail it on their books along with little sister Nesrine. It is, however, to his older sibling he is inevitably likened to.

“I have always been compared to my brother, but I have never worried about that,” he said. “We had the same coaches in Lyon, and they say that I have the same style of play. Sometimes, during training, some of them call me Fares!”


‘Liverpool won’t dwell on Coutinho sale’ – Gomez focused more on Van Dijk arrival

Nobody at Liverpool is dwelling on the departure of Philippe Coutinho, says Joe Gomez, with the club focused on the present and future.

The Reds were able to keep a Brazilian playmaker out of the clutches of Barcelona last summer, but eventually buckled during the winter window as a €160 million deal was pushed through.

Jurgen Klopp now needs to counter the loss of a talismanic presence, with it likely that he will dip into the January market himself in order to find cover.

Gomez, though, insists that the playing and coaching staff at Anfield have already moved on from a high-profile departure, with there little point in clinging to the past.

The England international defender told The Mirror: “It’s a massive club with so many top players and I think we know how good he is, everyone is happy for Phil, but now it’s about us bouncing back and moving on as a team.

“No-one is dwelling on it, we’ve got such a good team here, we know we can keep pushing and keep progressing.”

Virgil van Dijk Liverpool

Instead of reflecting on the value of former team-mates, Gomez would prefer to talk up the benefits of those still at Anfield.

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That includes record signing Virgil van Dijk, with the £75 million Netherlands international considered to be an ideal mentor for those alongside him in Liverpool’s defensive unit.

Gomez added on a man who occupies a centre-half berth he intends to fill at some stage: “It’s great for me personally, because he’s one of the best in the world right now, long term if I want to play there then it’s a great opportunity for me to learn and see what he does.

“He’s got great attributes and that’s something I can look at and see what he does from day to day. That’s one of the great things from being at a club like this, you are around top players like this. He’s a massive presence not just on the pitch, but off it as well.”


Liverpool’s Salah fit to face Manchester City

Jurgen Klopp expects Mohamed Salah to be fit to face Manchester City on Sunday but refused to discuss transfer rumours regarding Daniel Sturridge and Naby Keita.

Salah has missed the last two matches, 2-1 wins over Burnley and Everton in the Premier League and FA Cup respectively, due to a groin injury.

But the Egypt international is back in training and set to be available when Pep Guardiola’s runaway leaders arrive at Anfield this weekend. 

“If nothing happens in this moment, Mo is back,” Klopp told a news conference.

“He is training completely normal. That’s very important for us.”

Of Liverpool’s other injured players, Klopp said: “Hendo [captain Jordan Henderson] is out on the pitch and training, [but] not in team training so far. 

“Alberto Moreno is back in team training yesterday, [the game against] City is too early but he should be back soon.”

Sturridge is the subject of rumours linking the forward with a move away from Anfield this month, but Klopp was reluctant to provide updates about the situation of individual players.

“I have nothing to say about that! That’s how it is,” he said.

“We will see. Until 31 January a lot of things can happen. You will know before I will. Not only with Daniel.”

Of the England international’s recovery from a muscle problem, Klopp added: “He’s back in training and on the way to being back [available] again.”

Klopp also rejected suggestions Naby Keita’s move from RB Leipzig to Liverpool, set to be completed at the end of the campaign, could be brought forward to help the team cope with the departure of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona. 

“My understanding is there is nothing to say,” Klopp replied when asked about the Guinea international.

“I will not start [speculating] now. He is a player of Leipzig and will be in the summer here. That’s all I know.”

Liverpool have already made a major outlay in the transfer market, signing Virgil van Dijk from Southampton for a reported fee of £75 million.

The Netherlands international defender impressed and scored the winner on debut in the victory over local rivals Everton, but this weekend’s meeting with the title favourites could prove too challenging for a player who is still getting to know his new team-mates. 

“[The] City game is a completely different game,” Klopp said.

“The team [thoughts], tactics, [need to be] as tuned as possible. I don’t make a decision if he is ready for that. 

“All the other three boys are in really good shape. In this moment, if nothing else happens, then I should sleep OK thinking about that [selection] problem. 

“He’s not guaranteed to start every game and that’s not a problem.”


Coutinho arrival won’t change Barcelona’s tactics – Valverde

Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele will have to adapt to Barcelona’s existing tactics as head coach Ernesto Valverde is not planning radical changes to accommodate the duo.

While Dembele is available having recovered from three months out with a hamstring injury, Coutinho, who joined from Liverpool last week, faces a short wait for his Barca debut due to a minor thigh problem.

Barcelona’s strong form – they are yet to lose in any competition since their Supercopa de Espana loss to Real Madrid in August – has posed questions about how Coutinho and Dembele will be integrated.

Valverde has at times employed a 4-4-2 with a flat four in midfield behind Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez this season, with Dembele and Coutinho both seemingly more suited to a 4-3-3.

And the Barca coach gave few clues as to how he sees Coutinho and Dembele fitting in when he spoke to the media on Wednesday ahead of the second leg of his side’s last-16 Copa del Rey tie with Celta Vigo.

“Coutinho can’t play yet, Dembele can play on both sides, but regardless of small changes things are going to be very similar,” Valverde told reporters.

“Coutinho is a player we think can help us. Each player is different and brings something new. He scores, he can shoot. He can play inside or outside and we hope he can contribute and help us to be better.

“It’s a coach’s job to speak about his team. We’re competitive, in three competitions, at the greatest club in the world. We’re always trying to win and make our fans happy. We think our players are the best, that’s the way it is.”

Barca were held 1-1 at Balaidos in the first leg of the tie a week ago, while Celta drew 2-2 at Camp Nou in LaLiga earlier in the season 

And Valverde is expecting another tricky encounter from Juan Carlos Unzue’s side as the ex-Barca goalkeeper and Luis Enrique’s former assistant returns to Camp Nou with Celta on Thursday.

“I haven’t won it [the Copa del Rey] and from an individual standpoint I want to win the Copa del Rey, although the players have,” said Valverde, who would not confirm reports Barca are preparing for the imminent departures of Javier Mascherano and Arda Turan.

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“I played a final against Barcelona and lost. Tomorrow we want to go out and win the game. It’s a title we are playing for and we are playing in the Copa del Rey against Celta and it’s extremely important.”

On the threat of Celta forward Iago Aspas, Valverde added: “He is an extraordinary player, he doesn’t just score against us, he scores against everybody. 

“He has the facility to play in space, can play inside or on the wing. He’s a strong character and I like him a lot as a player. He’s in good form right now.”


Philippe Coutinho for Barcelona on FIFA 18 – best position, stats and potential rating

Philippe Coutinho has finally secured his dream move to Barcelona, signing from Liverpool for a club record fee of €160 million.

The Brazil international is a brilliant signing for La Liga’s leaders, but gives manager Ernesto Valverde a selection headache when deciding where best to play the 25-year-old.

Similarly, FIFA 18 gamers have a Coutinho conundrum on their hands if they usually play as Barcelona in Online Seasons or Career Mode.

To make it easier for Valverde and eSports players, Goal investigates what you should do with Coutinho at Barcelona.

Coutinho’s best position at Barcelona in FIFA 18

FIFA 18 Barcelona Coutinho

The simplest and most obvious role for Coutinho is the one his in-game version is assigned to automatically. In FIFA 18, Coutinho is a left-winger by default, and is Barcelona’s highest-rated player in that position after his January transfer.

Gerard Deulofeu currently occupies that role in the default Barcelona 4-3-3 formation, but Coutinho is a big improvement on the former Everton wideman overall. This will give the Blaugrana an unstoppable attacking trio of Coutinho, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.

With Ousmane Dembele now available after injury for Valverde (and always available in game for FIFA 18 players), another option is to have a front three of Coutinho, Suarez and Dembele, with Messi dropping back into midfield to dictate the game from there.

Alternatively, Coutinho’s excellent passing and dribbling ability mean he could be used as part of Barcelona’s midfield three or else on the left in a four-man midfield. With Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Paulinho competing for central midfield spots, there is an abundance of choice in the middle of the park.

A 4-1-2-1-2 or 4-4-2 approach would allow for Messi to partner Suarez in attack so depending on your playstyle, it could be an excellent formation with Coutinho wide left or in central midfield. If you really want to pack the midfield, Barcelona have enough quality centre-backs to even play a three-at-the-back formation with Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Samuel Umtiti protecting Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s goal.

FIFA 18: Coutinho’s Barcelona stats

FIFA 18 Barcelona Coutinho

The only drawback about playing Coutinho as a left-winger in a world-class three-man attack is his pace rating compared to some of Barcelona’s forwards. As always, pace is important in FIFA 18.

Neither Suarez nor Messi have over 90 pace, and Coutinho’s 82 pace is much less than the 93 score of Deulofeu or Dembele’s 91 pace stat. However, the former Liverpool attacker makes up for his lower pace stat with higher shooting and passing scores than both Deulofeu and Dembele, and the same dribbling rating as the latter.

He also has a four-star weak foot meaning he can pass and shoot from both sides, as well as four-star skill moves which ensure he can do almost every trick and flick in FIFA 18. Only Dembele has five-star skill moves from the entire Barcelona squad.

Player Pace Shooting Passing Dribbling
Philippe Coutinho 82 78 83 88
Gerard Deulofeu 93 70 75 87
Ousmane Dembele 91 76 75 88
Ivan Rakitic 65 84 86 82
Andres Iniesta 71 70 87 90
Sergio Busquets 40 59 79 74
Andre Gomes 68 71 78 78
Arda Turan 71 73 81 84
Paulinho 76 74 74 77
Denis Suarez 79 74 81 83

Coutinho’s in-game workrates are also fantastic with high attacking and high defending, meaning he will track back to help out in midfield or defence and then burst forward quickly to build counter-attacks.

His pace may be less than Barca’s other attackers, but is higher than all of their central midfielders, including Denis Suarez, Rafinha and Andre Gomes. Only Iniesta has better dribbling than him, and his four-star weak foot easily allows him to spread the play from the centre of the park.

Coutinho’s 88 long shot rating means he is a danger from outside the box, and he also offers another option from free-kicks when Barcelona are awarded a set-piece within shooting range. His shot power, free-kick accuracy and curve ratings are all above 80, meaning he can take frees from anywhere – and score.

FIFA 18: Coutinho’s Barcelona potential

FIFA 18 Coutinho Barcelona

As well as experiencing the joy of playing with Coutinho at Camp Nou in Online Seasons, many FIFA 18 players will want to see how the Brazil international develops at Barcelona in Career Mode.

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How will Coutinho do at Barcelona? Will he help them to La Liga and the Champions League? He played in six different seasons with Liverpool, but won no trophies at Anfield, so is eager to bag some team honours to go with the individual honours he has to his name like being named Liverpool’s player of the year twice and his inclusion in the Premier League Team of the Year and the Europa League Team of the Season.

Coutinho is currently rated 86 overall in FIFA 18, but has the potential to reach 89 in career mode using the current database. EA Sports release updates to the database throughout the year, which means that current and potential ratings can fluctuate depending on their real-life performances. His transfer to Barcelona could increase his potential rating further. For example, Dembele has a current rating of 83 but a potential of 92, which is a big increase on his 78 current and 90 potential ratings when he was with Borussia Dortmund.

Deulofeu has an 89 potential rating in FIFA 18, having already got a one-point increase from when the game was released in September. Nobody would believe that Deulofeu will end up being a better player than Coutinho in the short or long term, so EA Sports will surely update the Brazilian’s potential rating to reflect his status as the current second most expensive player ever.


How Neymar’s transfer allowed Barcelona to buy Coutinho as part of €307m spending spree

Five months after his move to Paris Saint-Germain, Neymar is still a significant presence at Barcelona. He is no longer scoring goals for the Catalan club, of course, but his world-record €222 million move has allowed the Blaugrana to spend in excess of €300m over successive transfer windows for the first time in their history.

Quite simply, without the sale of Neymar, the subsequent signings of former Borussia Dortmund starlet Ousmane Dembele and ex-Liverpool ace Philippe Coutinho would have been impossible.

Even though Barca have spent significant sums in recent years, the Catalans had never previously undertaken such an outlay: a grand total of €307m on six players – Dembele (€105m), Coutinho (€120m), Paulinho (€40m), Nelson Semedo (€30m) and Gerard Deulofeu (€12m).

Barcelona Transfers PS

It is worth noting that the €5m signing of Marlon Santos from Fluminense was agreed before June 30 and, thus, was not included in Barca’s summer transfer budget.

However, must also remember that as well as splashing €307m in fees, Barca have also agreed to clauses that could see them hand over an additional €40m in bonuses for both Coutinho and Dembele, meaning they could end up paying €160m and €145m for the pair, respectively, while there is also a potential €5m to be tagged on to the deal with Benfica for right-back Semedo.

Nevertheless, the financial impact has been much less severe than those figures indicate – and all because Barca received the vast sum of €222m when PSG agreed to pay Neymar’s release clause last August.

Neymar PSG 04082017

Of that income, Barca put €198m into their budget for new transfers, with the other €24m used for repayments and other costs.

Taking that into account, the Blaugrana have a net transfer spend of €114m across the past two windows, which is not too far above their original transfer budget at the beginning of last summer.

Therefore, it is clear that Neymar’s sale allowed for the arrival of Dembele and also Coutinho, who accepted giving up part of his salary at Liverpool so that the Reds would belatedly agree to his transfer to Barcelona.

Philippe Coutinho Barcelona presentation

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In addition, Liverpool should not have any problems in receiving the funds from Barca, because the Liga leaders have enough money to pay for Coutinho, largely thanks to the sale of Neymar.

However, Barca may need to plan again for the future as there is now nothing left from the Neymar money and next summer will start with multi-million payments due in variables to both the Reds and Borussia Dortmund for the transfers of Coutinho and Dembele, respectively, as well as Benfica (as part of the Semedo deal).

Still, with Coutinho having now been added to a side presently nine points clear at the top of La Liga, Barca will be confident that their historic investment in their playing squad will reap huge dividends.


Look away, Liverpool fans! Suarez welcomes Coutinho to Barcelona

Luis Suarez has vowed to help Philippe Coutinho achieve his dreams following his transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona.

The Brazil star finalised his move to Camp Nou on Monday, signing a five-and-a-half-year contract after a reported fee of €160 million was agreed between the clubs.

Suarez, who played alongside Coutinho at Anfield until he joined Barca in 2014, is looking forward to great success with the playmaker after being reunited.

Writing on Twitter alongside a picture with Coutinho, Suarez said: “Welcome my friend, how nice [it] is to share [a] team with you again.

“Lots of success in this new stage [sic], we will achieve them all together!”

Coutinho had earlier met Gerard Pique and Paulinho on his first full day at the club.


‘Go and buy Verratti!’ – Liverpool urged to sign ‘brilliant’ midfielder as Coutinho replacement

Liverpool have been urged to sign Marco Verratti to replace Philippe Coutinho by the club’s former director Christian Purslow.

The Reds confirmed the loss of their star player on Saturday as he brought an end to constant speculation by completing a €160 million move to Barcelona.

With 12 goals and eight assists to his name this season, Coutinho has played a key role in Liverpool’s campaign in the Premier League and Champions League, leaving the club with the difficult task of replacing him halfway through the season.

But ex-managing director Purslow says Jurgen Klopp’s side must push for a “brilliant” player to replace the Brazil international, pointing out Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Verratti as the star they need to maintain the quality of their squad.

“Go and buy Marco Verratti from PSG,” he said on Sky Sports.

Philippe Coutinho Barcelona

“Who has won the league in the last two years? Leicester and Chelsea. What was the common denominator? N’Golo Kante.

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“Would he have made Liverpool better? Indisputably. He is a world-class player, I just think Liverpool have to aim high.

“I don’t want fine, I want brilliant, because they just sold brilliant. ‘Fine’ gets you fourth, fifth, or sixth.”

Liverpool are currently fourth in the Premier League table, two points behind Chelsea and three ahead of Tottenham, while they have been drawn with Porto in the last-16 of the Champions League.


Gerrard: Liverpool will miss ‘wonderful footballer’ Coutinho

Steven Gerrard accepts Liverpool will miss “wonderful footballer” Philippe Coutinho after the Brazilian formally completed his dream move to Barcelona on Monday.

Liverpool were able to repel a series of offers for Coutinho in August, but the Premier League side allowed the playmaker to make the move to Camp Nou and become Barca’s most expensive signing after the January transfer window opened.

Coutinho reportedly paid around £10 million of his own money to help push through a deal reported to be worth up to £142 million, setting a record for a transfer involving a British club.

And Gerrard, who played with Coutinho towards the end of his own Anfield playing career, believes it will be difficult to replace the 25-year-old, who scored 41 Premier League goals for Liverpool.

“I’m still digesting it as a Liverpool fan,” Gerrard, now an academy coach at the club, told BT Sport.

“I’m not surprised by it. I know Liverpool have done everything they can to keep him and they fought very hard to keep him until the summer.

“But when a kid’s got a dream, a South American, that he wants to play for Barcelona and he thinks this is the only opportunity he’s going to get, then it’s very difficult to stop it.

“There’s no doubt about it, Liverpool will miss him. He’s a wonderful footballer, a great person and to be fair to him he hasn’t downed tools at all. I respect his decision and wish him all the best.”

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Jurgen Klopp’s side have been linked with players including Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez and Monaco’s France international Thomas Lemar to fill the void left by Coutinho, and Gerrard backed his club to spend the money wisely.

“Liverpool will go on,” Gerrard added. “They’ve got big money for him and I’m sure they’ll replace him with the right people.”