The Hard Tackle takes a look at three potential destinations for Philippe Coutinho as Barcelona make up their mind to sell the Brazilian star in the summer.
When Barcelona splashed a club-record £142 million to snare away Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool in January 2018, it was seen as a masterstroke, with the Catalans touted to have brought in the heir to a certain Andres Iniesta. And the way things started for the Brazilian after he completed his dream move to Camp Nou, things certainly seemed rosy.
However, it has pretty much been downhill from thereon. Coutinho struggled to nail down a place in the lineup at Barcelona often being shunned by former manager Ernesto Valverde, which meant he couldn’t really make the kind of impact expected, sapping his confidence completely.
Last season saw the former Liverpool creator-in-chief join Bayern Munich on a season-long loan and he showed signs of promise, playing a role in the Bavarians unrivalled dominance in domestic and European competition. However, it was not enough to convince them to take a punt on him on a permanent basis.
So, back he was at Barcelona in the summer, hoping to start afresh under a new manager in Ronald Koeman. And things did get off to a promising start, with Coutinho being directly involved in three goals in the first three league games of the season. However, a serious injury sustained at the turn of the year has meant that he has been out for over three months now.
Amidst this, Barcelona, mired by their financial problems and a change in the upper-management, have decided to part ways with Coutinho according to reports. It is said that the Catalans will have to pay an extra £20 million bonus to Liverpool if the Brazilian goes on to play 10 more matches for the club, which they are looking to avoid.
With the likes of Pedri, Ilaix Moriba emerging as options for Koeman in midfield and Ousmane Dembele rediscovering his form in attack, there is little space left for Coutinho when he does return from his injury. Add to it, Barcelona’s financial mess means the club cannot afford to make the payments to Liverpool at a time when the squad needs rebuilding in the summer.
So, the Blaugrana are now said to be looking to actively offload Coutinho in the summer, either on another loan spell or a permanent transfer. And, The Hard Tackle takes a look at three clubs that could end up being the 28-year-old Brazilian international’s next destination.
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. Arsenal had been heavily linked with a move for Philippe Coutinho last summer only for a transfer to fail to materialise. Instead, the club settled in on his compatriot Willian, signing him on a free transfer while Martin Odegaard was also brought into the side in January to address the creative issues.
While Willian has hit his strides after a slow start, he is in the final phase of his career. Odegaard, meanwhile, is only on loan at the club and Arsenal will need to shell out an outrageous amount of money to sign him permanently, which could lead to them turning their focus back towards Coutinho.
Despite his troubled spell in Barcelona, Coutinho showed last season with Bayern that he still has the quality to make a difference at the highest level while he had also started the new season strongly as well. Throw in his proven pedigree in the Premier League and Arsenal could have a top-class footballer in his prime at their disposal.
Able to play in the No. 10 role or on the left from where he can cut into the central areas, Coutinho could form a dangerous partnership with the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, while his chance-creation should also help improve captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s productivity in front of goal.
The sleeping giants of European football have shown signs of waking up from their slumber under Stefano Pioli this season. And even though it seems like the campaign will end without any trophy, there are signs of progress and with a better squad next season, they could potentially bridge that gap to the top, which is where Coutinho would enter the fray.
Milan, for the most part of the season, have been heavily reliant on Hakan Calhanoglu to be their chief creator. When the Turkish playmaker was sidelined with coronavirus and more recently with an injury, the Rossoneri’s performances were also affected drastically.
Brahim Diaz was brought in on loan from Real Madrid to share some of the creative burden with Calhanoglu but has failed to do so effectively so far. And this is where signing Coutinho could end up paying dividends for Milan. The Brazilian can be an option to rotate with Calhanoglu while the two could play together as well, given that both can play out on the left.
Add to it, his experience of winning trophies with Barcelona, Bayern as well as Brazil could add be worth its weight in gold for a largely inexperienced Milan side. Plus, he would also have a point or to prove to former employers Inter Milan as well, which could play to the Rossoneri’s advantage.
A move that has been touted for well over a couple of years now but has yet to take place, this summer could finally see PSG move in for Philippe Coutinho. The French champions will see Julian Draxler leave the club with his contract running out at the end of the season, which would open up a place for an attacking midfielder in the squad.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino, who prefers to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation, could find a place for him in the No. 10 role, where he would be flanked by Neymar and Angel Di Maria with Kylian Mbappe in front, making for a mouthwatering prospect for PSG fans.
Furthermore, there is a shared history between Pochettino and Coutinho given that the Argentine helped his fellow South American kickstart his career while on loan at Espanyol before his big move to Liverpool transpired.
This would also allow Pochettino to use Marco Verratti as a deep lying playmaker instead of going in with two out-and-out defensive midfielders in the double pivot as he has had to this season owing to the lack of quality playmaking options. And, amidst the current financial crunch, PSG are one club who could afford to pay Coutinho’s wages without any problem either.