Philippe Coutinho left Liverpool FC to join FC Barcelona in January 2018 for an initial transfer fee of £105 million, rising to a massive £142 million if various clauses were met (which still is the third most expensive transfer in football history). The way he joined his ‘dream club’ left a sour taste in the mouth of many Liverpool fans, reportedly faking a back injury and refusing to turn up to training to force in a transfer to the Catalan club.
Coutinho’s Barca unveiling (The Statesman)
The Merseyside club tried in vain to convince him to stay, even explaining to him how the Jurgen Klopp project was in the right direction. With Klopp even advising Coutinho, saying “Stay here and they will end up building a statue in your honour”.
Coutinho for Liverpool (Football Espana)
It is safe to say the ‘Little Magician’s’ time has not been fruitful in Spain. He only played one and a half seasons for Barcelona before being shipped out on loan to Bayern Munich, where to be fair to him he won a treble.
He then returned to Barcelona following his loan for the 2020/21 season, where he only played fourteen games before suffering from a season-ending injury.
Barcelona, with the dire financial situation they were and still are in, were willing to listen to offers for him for as little as £20 million this summer transfer window, a crazy drop from the fee they paid to Liverpool.
Coutinho has been linked to a return to Liverpool ever since his first full season in Catalonia. Although the rumours of his homecoming have never become a reality, it is interesting to see if the move would suit both parties.
Coutinho mainly played as an attacking midfielder for Liverpool. He was adept at playing on the wide left which allowed him to cut in and shoot with unstoppable ferocity. He scored many screamers in this fashion. He was also a creative force, with his ability to create something out of nothing a sight to behold.
2017/18 was arguably his best season, albeit for half. It also was Klopp’s second full season. The then number 10 was at his best and was grouped with a formidable attacking force consisting of the famous front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and the newly arrived Mohamed Salah, forming the ‘Fab Four’ as it was known.
The Fab Four (Soccersouls)
He played twenty games in all competitions scoring twelve goals and clocking eight assists before leaving in January. He was the main player of the goal as he was given the license by Klopp to roam and do what he did best.
His move to Barcelona was arguably a strange one as Lionel Messi already played his role and had the freedom to do whatever he wanted which made it impossible for Coutinho to express himself more freely as it would have caused defensive problems.
After Coutinho left Liverpool spent some of the profits acquired by his sale on Virgil van Dijk, a transformative transfer who addressed their immediate area of concern which was the defence with the rest of the amount spent on Alisson next season, another masterstroke of a transfer.
Liverpool changed the system from gung-ho counterattacking philosophy to a more possession-based one, becoming more compact and more unpredictable after he left, with fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson now providing creativity. They arguable started playing more as a team than depending on one player to create magic. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had effectively replaced him after he left and the team went on to reach the final of the Champions League, losing to a Real Madrid side which won its third consecutive Champions League.
Liverpool went on to win the Champions League the following season and the Premier League the season after. A Coutinho return now would be counter-productive for a variety of reasons.
Firstly with the aforementioned systemic change, the team has moved on from him with fullbacks now providing creativity. Coutinho was suitable for the more counterattacking style Liverpool played then but he is not a good fit now.
As Liverpool’s full-backs bomb up and down the pitch, the midfield is tasked to sustain counter-attacks, something Coutinho’s presence would compromise. Thiago’s signing has alleviated some of the pressure on the full-backs with ‘the Maestro’ an elite player who can dictate the tempo of the game and even provide moments of creativity.
Secondly, Coutinho has had horrid luck with injuries ever since he left. He is 29 now with little to no resale value. The Reds can’t afford to buy another player nearing his thirties when they already have an ageing squad.
As he bulked up physically during his time with Bayern, he does not seem to have the same agility and nimbleness he had, which made him so special and effective in the first place.
(FC Barcelona Noticias)
His return may have a lot of sentimental value but it makes little sense for sporting reasons.