It’s safe to say things haven’t quite gone to plan for Philippe Coutinho since swapping Liverpool for Barcelona back in January 2018.
With La Blaugrana forking out an eye-watering £142m for his services, there was a lot of pressure on Coutinho to deliver straight away. But after starting just 22 games in Spain’s top division in his first full season and failing to impress, he was sent out on loan to Bayern Munich the following summer.
Bayern were given the option to make the move permanent for around €120m, but, even before the financial implications of the pandemic took hold, told Barcelona ‘nein, danke’.
Now in a situation where neither his parent club nor his loan club want him, it is unclear where the Brazilian – not long ago regarded as one of the world’s best attacking midfielders – will be playing his football next season.
However, his agent has recently confirmed the player’s ‘desire’ to return to the Premier League, while several English sides linked.
Here’s a look at the English options for Coutinho, and whether any of the moves make much sense….
Manchester United forked out a hefty sum to bring in Bruno Fernandes in January, but he has already gone a long way to repaying the fee with his stellar performances.
However, despite his arrival, the addition of more global stars like Coutinho – a player not only creative and tactically versatile but also highly marketable – certainly ticks a lot of boxes for a club looking to get back to challenging for titles.
It’s quite simple, really. This move seems highly unlikely on many counts.
Manchester United have their sights set on other targets (read more about those here) and they don’t need to be taking any unnecessary risks by spending silly money on Coutinho – especially during these financially challenging times for clubs.
Recent reports put the Brazilian’s price tag at anywhere up to €100m (£89m), while his current salary sits at around €11m a year (about £200k-a-week).
There’s also the small matter of him being an ex-Liverpool player. A lot has been made of whether Coutinho would be open to making the switch to Old Trafford because of his Liverpool days. Some reports say he very much wouldn’t.
But what about United? Would they or the fans be keen to see the Brazilian slipping on the red jersey? A fair few wouldn’t.
Coutinho was simply unplayable at points during his time at Anfield, popping up all over the pitch to link up play, cause havoc and score screamers.
A return to a more familiar setting could be just what he needs to kickstart his career once more and if the Reds could get the 27-year-old back playing at his best, then that would be a very scary thought for the rest of Europe.
Make no mistake about it, Jurgen Klopp’s squad needs very little improvement, but it is often said that they have on occasion lacked a creative midfielder.
Of course, Liverpool have coped just fine without Coutinho since his departure, but he has a unique skillset which could prove valuable to the Reds as they look to assert their dominance domestically and in Europe over the forthcoming years.
Liverpool have a squad that gels and works together.
Yes, Coutinho was excellent during his time with Liverpool, but they haven’t missed him since he departed. Instead, they’ve gone on to become champions of Europe and are the soon-to-be Premier League champions.
A source also confirmed to 90min in April that the Reds still have first refusal on the player – but they have little desire to take up their option.
With Barcelona set to demand a big fee, a return to Liverpool seems highly unlikely with the club now more focused on promoting youth from within.
In terms of significant outlays in recruitment in the near future, only Timo Werner looks remotely likely.
Coutinho would bring creativity and could also even the voids left by Leroy Sane (assuming he leaves) and David Silva. The player would also fit into Pep Guardiola’s system and style of play, with his ability to drift and and pick up pockets of space making him constantly available for his teammates and a real threat.
With the help of a coach like Guardiola, Coutinho could well rediscover his best form and, with no ties to Man City, it could be just the fresh start he needs.
Yes, City have the money to pull this deal off, but why should they?
They have other targets in mind, who could potentially arrive for a smaller transfer fee, while they also actually appear to hold very little interest in signing him. Not to mention, the Sky Blues’ squad is already overflowing with talent, including the club’s young prince Phil Foden.
To rub salt into the wounds, City were offered the chance to sign Coutinho last summer – but Guardiola wasn’t interested.
With Carlo Ancelotti leading the way, Everton are looking to splash the cash in the market as they look to climb the Premier League table. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison have looked bright up front together this season, but the Toffees still need a creator from midfield to spot the openings and create chances.
As a result, they have shown an interest in Coutinho and are even said to be willing to accept Barcelona’s demands of a loan deal with a mandatory option-to-buy at the end of it.
Putting the obvious aside, this move does make a lot of sense.
Everton are looking to build a team that can challenge in Europe, while Coutinho is looking for a project that will allow him to shine and prove his worth once again. There are also the ties between his agent Kia Joorabchian and Toffees majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri and Barcelona’s history of offloading players to Everton (see: Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes, Yerry Mina).
Unfortunately, however, the rivalry between Liverpool and Everton cannot be ignored.
Few have crossed the divide, with Nick Barmby one of the most recent high profile examples back at the turn of the century.
It is unclear whether Coutinho would even be willing to commit to such a move, but even if he was, the hostility and criticism he would receive might not help him in his attempts to get back to his best form.
Similar to the project at Everton, a move to Leicester could actually prove to be very appealing for Coutinho – without all the side drama, as well. Currently sat in the Champions League spaces, the Brazil international wouldn’t really be making many sacrifices.
As for the Foxes, they would benefit from a player of Coutinho’s calibre, while the player himself would also fit into the team’s style. Perhaps most notably, however, is the appeal of working under Brendan Rodgers once again. Coutinho thrived under his management and the pair understand each other very well.
Who is dropped if Coutinho arrives? Harvey Barnes was in excellent form prior to the enforced break, while James Maddison occupies the attacking midfield role. Of course, Barnes can play on either wing, but Rodgers won’t be keen to alter the starting lineup and their positions too much. Then, there’s also the issue of cost.
Strength in depth is key but equally, a move for Coutinho could do more harm than good for the Foxes.
Competition for places aside, there is (once again) the question of cost. Jamie Vardy – the club’s star man and Premier League top scorer is reportedly on around £140,000k a week – some way short of Coutinho’s current packet. The Brazilian might have to be willing to take a pay cut to make this a realistic possibility.
There are two main reasons why Newcastle are in with a chance of landing Coutinho.
First, should the proposed takeover be completed, the Magpies will have the financial strength to negotiate with Barça and either agree a loan or permanent transfer for Coutinho. Second, if the new owners manage to bring in his former boss at Espanyol, Mauricio Pochettino, this will be a major indicator of the direction of the club and will be hugely enticing for the player.
Both financially and on the field, if the takeover is completed and Pochettino is brought in, this could be a very realistic move. Of course, Coutinho would be a marquee signing for Newcastle and would go a long way to helping the prospective new owners achieve their goals.
The main problem is the constant use of the word ‘if’. At this moment in time, it is simply hypothetical.
Even if the takeover were to go through, Coutinho would have to commit to a longer-term project that may see him out of the Champions League for several seasons.
One of Tottenham’s better performers this season has been Giovani Lo Celso, with the Argentine receiving much praise for his vision and awareness. But while Lo Celso has been impressive, he has managed just the two goals and one assist this season.
Spurs are in need of a player such as Coutinho, who can provide the right balance and take some of the pressure off the likes of Lo Celso and Dele as well as the forwards, with his passing and eye for goal. Most excitingly, Coutinho could strike up a menacing partnership with Harry Kane.
This is a move that could suit everyone.
Money, money, money.
A loan move has been reported in recent weeks, and this could suit a number of clubs on this list. But Football Insider recently reported that Barça will ask for a loan fee of around £8m, while any interested club will also have to pay his wages in full.
This is already problematic….and as you’d expect, Marca later reported that while Spurs have been offered the chance to sign Coutinho, they aren’t considering a move right now with his wages (you remember, all €11m of them) a major issue.
Also, can you see Coutinho forced into wing back under Mourinho?
Arsenal are in a position not too dissimilar to their north London rivals, with the Gunners in need of midfield and attacking reinforcements.
Far too often, captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is left frustrated as his run hasn’t been spotted and a golden chance has been missed. Coutinho could be the man to provide the link between the midfield and the attack.
Fluidity, attacking and with a hungry manager in the dugout with a point to prove, a move to Arsenal could be an exciting proposition for Coutinho, while the London appeal may also be another bonus. As for the Gunners and Arteta, it could be a statement of intent.
Like at Everton, Joorabchian also has connections at Arsenal, which could help facilitate a deal.
A source confirmed to 90min in March that with the Gunners’ transfer funds limited, they are considering the signings of three potential free agents.
That says it all really, doesn’t it?
A young and talented Chelsea squad would benefit from the addition of Coutinho. With Willian and Pedro potentially heading out the exit door this summer, the Blues will need a new arrival – someone who has experience of playing in the Premier League and has a winning mentality.
That is what Coutinho can bring. Frank Lampard doesn’t have a player like Coutinho in his squad. Mason Mount and Willian lead the way in terms of assists in the Premier League this season, with their tally of just five each.
Lampard’s squad is filled with talent but not much inventiveness and imagination in the most crucial areas of the pitch. Chelsea also have the funds to make this move happen, making it the most reasonable and suitable option.
Yes, they have the funds, but do they really want to pay Coutinho’s wages for a loan move with an option to buy?
It’s the same old story once again for Coutinho with regards to concerns over his wages and his performances.
It is a move that most definitely wouldn’t please every Chelsea fan….
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