It’s done and it’s not surprising. A Brazilian has angled for a move to his dream club and has gotten it. Then, you check the month of the year and the teams in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions league that includes Liverpool and Barcelona and you begin to rationalize why a €160m move is made in the winter transfer window.
From a Barça point of view
They’re currently coasting in the league, Copa del Rey is their bread and butter and they comfortably topped their UCL group – the toughest competition to win. So why sign Coutinho now when the UEFA don’t a allow a player to play for more than one club in a season’s Champions League (group stage onwards).
The Blaugrana outfit could have agreed a deal and let him stay at Liverpool until the summer. Regardless, if you break your transfer and the British transfer record, you’re not likely to want to cede your relative control for six months. From a football point of view buying him now or in the summer, makes no difference except he could give rest time to Iniesta in the Liga and use 6 months to adapt to the club and team while Iniesta fires on in the in the UCL, Iniesta style.
From a Coutinho point of view
The man is a South American and as Klopp said in his “farewell” statement, the 25-year-old feels it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for him. He couldn’t wait another 6 months and see the Barca interest go away or have his mind wandering for six months if the deal was made, all that anxiety.
From a Liverpool point of view;
The Fenway Sports Group club played hardball in the summer rejecting up to three bids for a mutinous Coutinho, the player buckled himself from September and still left the Anfield faithful purring with constant fine performances. Phillipe wanted this move, Barcelona wanted to negotiate and although Liverpool would have loved to keep him until July, they wouldn’t want a sulking superstar on their books for the remainder of the season.
So, why is Barcelona smashing its transfer record on a player who has never been in the Ballon d’Or conversation?
Barcelona have Pique, Iniesta, Messi, Suarez, Busquets as their core and they are on the wrong side of 30, Neymar was snatched from them and they have to start grooming a younger core so the entire team doesn’t retire at the same time. Enter Phillipe Coutinho.
Coutinho is quality and has been on a very noticeable upward curve; towards his prime in the last 18 months. The Iniesta role is where he is been earmarked for.
Ernesto Valverde started the Barcelona season with a 4-3-3 that didn’t have a true left winger and gradually moved into a 4-4-2.
In the Valverde 4-3-3, Suarez vacated the left regularly for Alba (the left back) to burst through, while the 33 years old Iniesta (the left-center midfielder) drifted from central midfield into the advanced left channels and the left wing. This sort of behavior is what Coutinho can do/does, occupying the space between lines during build-up, receiving on the half turn, interplay between four passing options available to him.
The 4-4-2 – where Iniesta plays as the LM but interprets the role similar to the 4-3-3, Coutinho could evolve that a bit and interpret the way David Silva did on the right of Mancini’s title-winning City, playing a bit closer to goal, playing the final ball and getting on the end of chances.
There is a profile like Coutinho’s already at the club named Denis Suarez but Coutinho ups the level and despite the marvelous job Valverde is doing with the like of Paulinho and Deulofeu, Barcelona need more raw quality footballers than they currently have.
Throw in Dembele’s recovery from injury and Ernesto has a lot of tactical variations he can experiment within the league where they have a healthy lead. Coutinho could play as the left winger in a 4-3-3 when Suarez needs a burger break, properly rekindling that delicious Messi false 9 that Pep served us a few years back.
Forget the price, Coutinho is quality and Barcelona need him (and his long shots).
Article by: David Uti, @daviduti_