Liverpool were due to form an honor guard for Philippe Coutinho ahead of tonight’s away game at Aston Villa. Few players have done more to facilitate Jurgen Klopp’s revolution at Anfield than the Brazilian.
The 29-year-old will look to end Liverpool’s pursuit of the quadruple once and for all tonight but even if he does prevail at Villa Park his trajectory since leaving Merseyside four years ago has been sobering.
On the face of it, moves to Barcelona and Bayern Munich should be the kind of upward moves any player would crave, especially given Liverpool’s status on his departure. But his stints at the Nou Camp and Allianz have been deeply disappointing.
This is an allegory for his career. In reality, everything he’s done looks a lot better on paper than it does on the pitch. He has to prove that he didn’t find his level at Villa.
Steven Gerrard is keen to make his loan move from Barcelona permanent. The Catalan club are so eager to divest that they may accept a fee more than 50 per cent less than their £34million buyout. Newcastle United are also interested in Coutinho. At these prices, some might think it’s a safe bet. In terms of performance, it looks like a punt.
Gerrard is well placed to comment. Coutinho was playing alongside him at Liverpool and was on the pitch when the Villa manager made his infamous slip in the 2-0 defeat by Chelsea eight years ago, a moment that derailed Anfield’s best title challenge in 25 years. Back then, the youngster from Rio de Janeiro was building his reputation. His influence was limited by the presence of Gerrard and Luis Suarez. Within two years these two icons had moved on and Coutinho was perfectly positioned to make the team his own. He never did.
There were some who thought he would be the perfect man for Klopp to build a team. That was never really an option. Yes, Coutinho has an exquisite touch and passes the ball beautifully. He can shoot from afar. What he lacks is pace, consistency and the ability to press.
Compare him to his former Bayern team-mate Thiago Alcantara, who is thriving under Klopp at Anfield. The 31-year-old can distribute the ball with a similar style and is by no means fast, but he chases and attacks aggressively when opponents have possession.
Both players won Champions League medals with the German club two years ago but while Thiago’s time at Bayern is fondly remembered, Coutinho’s loan spell is seen as a costly mistake.
What convinced Barcelona to pay £142m for the player who cost Liverpool less than £12m from Inter Milan is incomprehensible.
Given the financial crisis that has gripped the Nou Camp, it seems like a combination of hubris and stupidity. This money was largely used to fund the bringing of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker to Anfield.
In three moves, Liverpool catapulted themselves to the top of European football. Given his salary and medals at Barca and Bayern, Coutinho hasn’t skimped much but has to envy his former club’s performances.
In theory, he should be the kind of player who can become a Villa talisman – a realistic replacement for Jack Grealish as the team’s icon – and someone who can propel the Midlands side under Gerrard.
This is a crucial time for someone who turns 30 next month. If it’s going to live up to its hype, it has to happen in the next 12 months.
His only two appearances against Liverpool were embarrassing. He was part of the Barcelona team that won 3-0 in the Champions League semi-finals at the Nou Camp three years ago before conceding four goals in the second leg at Anfield.
In both games, Coutinho was snapped after the hour mark, each time booed by the Catalans and scousers alike.
Tonight he has to prove his worth to Villa. Its value to Liverpool wasn’t in a red shirt but as a tradable commodity. He was significantly overpriced and his exit from Anfield proved to be a priceless moment for Klopp.
Coutinho is a Liverpool great. His was the biggest sale in Anfield’s history. He’ll need to do something special over the next few years to shake off that ignominious title.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/premier-league/philippe-coutinho-is-a-liverpool-great-because-his-was-the-greatest-sale-in-anfields-history-41633445.html Philippe Coutinho is a Liverpool ‘great’ because it was the biggest sale in Anfield’s history