Philippe Coutinho has become a footballing superstar at Liverpool after signing from Inter Milan for a modest £8.5 million in January 2013. Then a 20-year old, the Brazilian initially caught the eye with his dribbling, passing and set piece prowess, and became an increasingly integral part of the Reds setup.
The 2016/2017 campaign was his best to date, as he scored 13 league goals and made seven assists.
Liverpool 6/4 to beat Sevilla
His brilliant displays got the attention of potential suitors and Barcelona came knocking for him this summer. The Catalan giants reportedly made multiple bids for his services, tabling offers as high as £114 million to snare the playmaker. However, Liverpool refused to sell despite Coutinho placing a transfer request.
With the transfer window shut and the new season now in full gear, Coutinho has five goals to his name already this term across the Champions League and the Premier League.
However, while the Brazil international will look to add to his tally on Tuesday evening when the Reds face Sevilla in UCL action, he’s not as critical a component of Jugen Klopp’s side as he used to be.
This season, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have stolen the show, changing Coutinho’s role in the team in the process.
Senegal and Egypt internationals have been the livewires for Liverpool this term, scoring 12 of the Reds’ 24 league goals so far.
Salah was a £36 million summer signing from AS Roma and has lit up the Premier League this term, helping supporters forget his underwhelming stay at Chelsea.
Mane is Liverpool’s top scorer since the start of last season with 16 goals to his name, and the Reds’ struggles during his injury absences or suspensions demonstrate just how valuable he is for the Merseysiders.
With the duo contributing so much going forward, despite not being recognised as out-and-out strikers, Klopp has had no need to use a conventional centre-forward domestically. Indeed, Daniel Sturridge and Dominic Solanke-their two recognised strikers-have just two goals between them this term.
The prowess of Mane and Salah was highlighted in Liverpool’s most recent league outings; away to struggling West Ham and at home against Southampton.
In the first match-one of their best displays this term-Salah scored a brace and Mane assisted both goals as the Mersey outfit ran out 4-1 victors.
Coutinho wasn’t present during the game as he was out with an abductor problem and his absence wasn’t really felt, nor was it in the previous 3-0 win over Huddersfield Town.
The ease with which Liverpool fare without the Brazil international comes in stark contrast to their struggles when Mane isn’t present.
Coutinho is a fine player, and has dealt admirably with his inabiltiy to secure a move away from Anfield, but recent fixtures demonstrate exactly where he stands in the pecking order at Anfield, even if he did score and contribute an assist against Saints.
Salah and Mane in tandem represents not just an effective Plan B for Liverpool, but also an ever-more appealing Plan A as their synergy improves.
Expect Barcelona to return for Coutinho in the transfer windows to come, and while Klopp may still be unwilling to part ways with such a talented individual, the African duo have at least demonstrated that the Reds can thrive without the Brazilian.