Philippe Coutinho linked with Liverpool return
A report by Spanish outlet AS (h/t Daily Star) states that Barcelona want to sell 6 players including Philippe Coutinho, who is linked with a move to Liverpool. The move seems ‘unlikely’ but the Catalan club still wants him to return to Merseyside. Coutinho spent 5 years at Liverpool before his move to La Liga.
The attacking midfielder left Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to join Barcelona in the winter transfer window of 2018. The total fee dished out by the Spanish side for Coutinho was in the region of £142million, including add-ons and clauses. But he has struggled ever since that move, having failed to cement his place in the starting XI and even being loaned out to Bayern once.
A Wijnaldum replacement
Liverpool lost a very good midfielder in Georginio Wijnaldum during this window. The Dutchman ran out of contract and is set to join Barcelona as a free agent. Wijnaldum was undoubtedly a massive part of Liverpool’s set-up, and he has been for a while. His importance can be seen in the fact that he missed just two games all season.
This was against Lincoln in the FA Cup and Midtjylland in the UEFA Champions League. Losing a player who made 51 appearances means he needs to be replaced. And signing a midfielder like Coutinho would do just that. With the injury problems Liverpool had this campaign, it’s only wise to stock up on quality players in each position.
Goals and assists
One thing that Coutinho would add to this Liverpool side is goals and assists from midfield. The Brazilian playmaker had 54 goals and 45 assists in 201 appearances during his time in England. And that is something Liverpool are crying out for – no central midfielder had more than one league goal this season apart from Wijnaldum.
Any team would benefit from players contributing from midfield. As it is known, Coutinho plays a little further ahead than a conventional central midfielder. This can be shown in the heatmap from his last season under Klopp in the Premier League. A midfielder who pushes forward to attack like Coutinho might just be what the doctor ordered for the Reds.
Tried and tested
The major advantage Liverpool would have in such a deal going through is Coutinho’s experience in England. As noted above, he already has more than 200 games under his belt for the club. He proved himself during that time too, with goals and assists to back that claim. Moreover, he played in a similar system under the same manager before.
The current 4-3-3 that Liverpool play is similar to the 4-3-3 formation used by Klopp when Coutinho was at Anfield. The midfielder is also 28 years old now, which by no way indicates that he is past his prime physical years.
And more than anything, if Liverpool ever wanted a Coutinho replacement, it’s Coutinho himself. That’s not our words. This is something that Klopp believes too, as he said to reporters following Coutinho’s sale:
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“You cannot replace Phil Coutinho with exactly the same kind of player. He’s Phil Coutinho. He has a specific style of play, tactically an outstanding player. He can play as the winger, the 10, the eight – really great.”