‘He’s a huge player’ – Materazzi not surprised by Coutinho’s massive transfer fee

Marco Materazzi feels the huge sum Barcelona paid to sign his former Inter team-mate Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool is a simple function of the transfer market.

Barca parted with a fee that could reportedly rise to £142million to secure the services of the Brazil international.

Materazzi claims he knew the playmaker would be a special talent from their time together at the Nerazzurri.

And with Paris Saint-Germain having smashed the world transfer record to poach Neymar from Camp Nou for €222m in August, the amounts now being paid to secure the game’s top talents are of little concern to Materazzi.  

Speaking to Omnisport about Coutinho, the former Italy international said: “I’ve been lucky enough to play alongside with him when he was just 15 years old and he was doing his first trial for Inter.

“I can tell you he [is a] huge player.

“Prices always depend [on] the offer and the request. If there’s a team asking that much and there’s another willing to pay that amount, it’s not Marco Materazzi’s problem.”

Materazzi also welcomed Inter’s signing of Lisandro Lopez, and backed the defender to make an impact.

The San Siro side have brought in the 28-year-old centre-back on loan from Benfica until the end of the season, with an option to make the move permanent.

And Materazzi feels the Argentina international could prove to be an effective acquisition as Luciano Spalletti’s team, third in Serie A, seek to qualify for the Champions League.

“We are talking about a player with experience, he is a player already made and not a young talent coming out from favelas,” Materazzi said.

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“He played for Benfica, winning titles. He played several seasons in Champions and Europa League. 

“It means he is a well-known player and with his experience can help a lot the team to achieve those targets and Inter fans are expecting.”


Brazil overtake Spain as world’s most-expensive national team

Philippe Coutinho’s €160 million switch to Barcelona has seen the Selecao surpass Spain as the most costly national team in world football

Philippe Coutinho’s transfer to Barcelona this month saw Brazil surpass Spain as the most expensive national team in world football.

The Selecao star cost the Catalan club around €160 million and saw him become the second most expensive signing in the history of football.

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The most expensive, of course, was Brazil star Neymar, who left Barcelona last year to join French giants Paris Saint-Germain for a jaw-dropping €222 million.

Coutinho’s switch means the 11 starters for Brazil have fetched a market value of around €530 million, which edges them past Spain (€520 million) and Belgium (€510 million)

Indeed, football transfer website Transfermarkt values Brazil as the most valuable collection of players in the world in terms of current market value, too, at a staggering €789.5 million. 

Neymar backs Coutinho Barca switch

Neymar Jr. congratulated me on Barca move – Coutinho

Posted by Brasil Global Tour on Wednesday, January 10, 2018

And while the average age of the squad overall right now is around 28-years-old, the average of their top five most valuable players is just 24.

The most expensive national team in the world will reconvene in March as the Brasil Global Tour returns to Europe with a trip to Moscow to face Russia before stopping in Berlin to meet Germany.


Real Sociedad 2 Barcelona 4: Messi claims new landmark as Anoeta curse is broken

Lionel Messi set a new goalscoring landmark as Barcelona came from two goals down to beat Real Sociedad 4-2 and break their Anoeta cruse.

A stunning late free-kick at the end of an otherwise quiet outing from the Argentina star made him the top league goalscorer for one club in any of Europe’s top five divisions, surpassing Gerd Muller with his 366th LaLiga goal.

The Catalan giants had returned winless from their last seven trips to Sociedad in the top flight and were primed for further disappointment after falling behind to Willian Jose’s 11th-minute header. 

Juanmi doubled the hosts’ lead with a heavily deflected finish after a superb assist from Sergio Canales, but that only served to stir Barca into life and Paulinho reduced the deficit before half-time. 

Within five minutes of the restart the scores were level as Luis Suarez finished brilliantly for his 12th league goal of the season.

Suarez then grabbed a second 19 minutes from time after goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli’s poor clearance proved costly for Eusebio Sacristan’s men, with Messi putting the icing on the cake.

The result restores Barca’s nine-point lead at the summit, elevating them 19 ahead of champions Real Madrid, breaking an 11-year spell without a league win at Anoeta in the process.

Barca – without the services of injured new signing Philippe Coutinho – started brightly and Suarez was denied by the onrushing Rulli at the end of a determined run into the Sociedad box, while the keeper also had to be alert to keep out Sergi Roberto soon after.

But the visitors found themselves behind as Willian Jose headed Xabi Prieto’s searching cross into the ground and over Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Barca struggled to mount any meaningful response, with their play uncharacteristically sloppy and Sociedad looking the more confident team on the ball.

The home side thought they had a second when Willian Jose’s deflected shot nestled into the back of Ter Stegen’s net, but Ivan Rakitic had been fouled beforehand. 

Their disappointment was soon assuaged as another goal did arrive, Juanmi collecting a wonderful lofted throughball from Canales before driving his effort off Roberto and into the net.

Ernesto Valverde’s men got back into the contest six minutes before the break, Suarez laying on a simple finish for Paulinho. 

Barca threatened early in the second half, with Messi rounding compatriot Rulli, who recovered well to divert the ball behind for a corner that came to nothing.

But Rulli was helpless to prevent Suarez’s excellent equaliser, which he curled home side-footed from just inside the box.

Valverde introduced Ousmane Dembele in place of Paulinho just past the hour mark as he sought to get a firm grip on the contest, which was by then being played in sodden conditions.

Sociedad sent a timely reminder of their remaining threat when Willian Jose climbed well to connect with a header, but his attempt was wayward.

The turnaround was complete in the 71st minute, Suarez calmly tucking in his second after Rulli’s lazy-looking clearance was headed into the Uruguayan’s path by Thomas Vermaelen.

There was still time for Messi to create yet more history, sending a world-class free-kick into the net to make certain of the points.


Man City lucky Coutinho has gone, Wijnaldum claims

Georginio Wijnaldum feels Manchester City and Liverpool’s other Premier League rivals are fortunate Philippe Coutinho has been sold to Barcelona.

The Brazil international moved to Camp Nou this month for a fee that could reportedly rise to £142 million.

Former Inter playmaker Coutinho had been a key figure for the Reds, who must now face the challenge of hosting runaway Premier League leaders City at Anfield on Sunday without the departed star.

“They are lucky, yes,” Wijnaldum said of Pep Guardiola’s side.

“I think every top team is probably happy he left for another team in another country.”

According to Wijnaldum, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is trying to take a relaxed approach in his attempts to compensate for the absence of Coutinho.

“He [Klopp] is not saying you have to step up now or do this or that, he just wants us to enjoy the game and try to do our best,” the Dutch midfielder said.

“The manager is not the kind of manager who will put that kind of pressure on players.

“The only pressure the manager puts on us is that we have to give 100 per cent and try to use the quality we have. It’s not that I think I now have to go on and think I am the best man and number one.”

And it is not just on the field where the loss of Coutinho will be keenly felt, Wijnaldum speaking highly of the 25-year-old’s character and popularity.

“To be fair it is still strange, I think we still have to realise he has gone,” he said. “A quality player like Phil, every team will miss a player like that if they leave.

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“He was a really nice guy to work with, that is why we are happy for him that he can make the move, but also sad that he didn’t stay because with Phil in the team, you are a better team of course.

“He was one of the best players we had in the team but as a person he was maybe even the best.

“He was not like, ‘I am the best’ or arrogant or something like that. Phil was always a person who listened to the team, who listened to the coaching.”


Valverde: Barca the best team in the world

The January signings of Philippe Coutinho and Yerry Mina leave Barcelona as the envy of world football, according to head coach Ernesto Valverde.

Barca followed the club-record €160 million capture of Liverpool playmaker Coutinho by wrapping up an €11.8m deal with Palmeiras for Colombia centre-back Mina on Thursday.

Valverde’s men sit nine points clear at the top of La Liga ahead of Atletico Madrid’s trip to Eibar, and 16 points better off than bitter rivals Real Madrid, who suffered their latest setback on Saturday with a 1-0 loss at home to Villarreal.

It is a far cry from the unrest that surrounded Neymar’s world-record switch to Paris Saint-Germain back in August but Valverde always believed he was inheriting a team of the highest quality when he elected to leave Athletic Bilbao.

“Well, I’m very happy with the players who I had before the arrival of these two players, and with the ones I had at the end of the summer and with the ones I have now,” he told reporters ahead of Sunday’s trip to Real Sociedad, which Coutinho will miss due to a thigh problem.

“I thought Barca was the best team when I was the coach of Athletic and now I can see that. Barca is the best team in the world. “

Valverde went on to praise Mina’s all-round ability but suggested it is unlikely he will take part at Anoeta.

“He’s a player who’s daring at the offensive area of the field. He’s spectacular in the air and defensively as well,” he said.

“Seeing him train we need to see how he’s going to adapt to the team. That’s something important. He gives us the feeling he can do anything.

“When might he make his debut? I don’t know. We have to see how he feels. He has to train with the team first.

“We have a style of play he has to adapt to. We know it’s not easy for defenders and that’s where we think he’s going to play.”

One man leaving Barca is Arda Turan, who has agreed a two-and-a-half-year loan switch to Turkish Super Lig club Istanbul Basaksehir.

The Turkey midfielder has failed to scale the heights he reached at Atletico since joining Barca and his loan move runs until the end of his Camp Nou contract in June 2020.

“He’s a player who was here, he’s very talented. He’s shown it in the time that he was not just here at Barca but at Atletico,” Valverde added, having failed to grant the 30-year-old a single senior appearance during his tenure.

“Maybe he didn’t have the opportunities he wanted this year, but I have nothing else to say.”


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.”