Football Features

Philippe Coutinho looks like Barcelona’s most expensive flop ever – so where next?

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:36, 3 April 2019

Philippe Coutinho is not having a good time at Barcelona.

The world’s third most expensive player opened the scoring against Villarreal, marking his first La Liga goal since he opened the scoring in El Clásico back in October 2018. Since then he scored four more goals, three in the Copa del Rey and one in the Champions League.

That is a dismal return considering the talent at his disposal, but would be tolerable if he was at least playing well – which he is not. Coutinho’s form was inconsistent up until his injury in early November, and he’s been shocking since then. Genuinely bad.

His passing and movement is bright for about 30 minutes, where he can genuinely look a threat and sometimes even score (as he did against Villarreal) but then afterwards his baby lungs give out and he runs out of steam. Thereafter he spends the rest of the match looking lost and confused, unable to even threaten with his trademark cut-in-and-shoot move.

That’s really absurd given how much cash Barcelona shelled out on him. £105m, potentially rising to £142. And he’s been terrible. Unless something changes and quickly he’s going to go down as the most expensive flop of all-time. The Blaugrana are genuinely considering cutting their losses and selling him, but if they do where could he end up? We’ve had a look.

Dream: PSG

His best mate Neymar is already at PSG so right off the bat this move is enormously attractive. There’s also an influential Brazilian presence at the club, with Neymar, Thiago Silva and Marquinhos as well as Dani Alves so settling into life in Paris wouldn’t be too hard. Moreover at PSG he’d be guaranteed to win titles and play at least 8 Champions League games every season.

Dream: Juventus

Juventus’ dominion over Serie A looks like it will be neverending at this point and they’re also a historic side, so Coutinho would continue his seat at the top table of European clubs. Playing for the Bianconeri with incredible attacking talents like Moise Kean and Paulo Dybala would be a delight and he’d probably find Serie A more suitable to his ball-heavy side.

Squawka Suggests: PSG

Wouldn’t this be perfect for Coutinho? To move elite clubs and become even more important. Playing alongside compatriot Neymar and the young sensation Kylian Mbappé, Coutinho would be able to form a deadly forward line as a free-roaming no. 10, playing a more direct style of football that suits his skill-set more. Of course this is no doubt a dream because even though PSG would love to stick it to Barcelona by snagging another one of their players, the French side have other transfer needs and the FFP folk breathing down their necks.

Realistic: Manchester United

Coutinho is a world-class talent that wants to leave his club, so of course he’s been linked with Manchester United. Ed Woodward is obsessed with signing a superstar and Coutinho is very much that, even after his struggles in Catalunya. United have the money to sign and pay him, which is also probably the most important thing here.

Realistic: Chelsea

When Eden Hazard leaves Chelsea for Real Madrid, the Blues will need a new star man to play on the left of their attack. A creative attacking midfielder who is comfortable seeing a lot of the ball, dribbling with it but also playing sharp, short passes to unlock opposing defences. That is an almost perfect description of Coutinho’s skill-set. Of course this is contingent on Chelsea getting their transfer ban suspended for this summer window, which they should be able to do with an appeal to CAS.

Squawka Suggests: Chelsea

Whilst Manchester United is tempting, his presence there would step all over Anthony Martial (position) and Paul Pogba (role). And even if Pogba leaves, Coutinho would still become a pariah to the Liverpool fans he was so eager to avoid upsetting when he moved to Barcelona in the first place. Meanwhile a move to Chelsea wouldn’t sting the Anfield faithful quite as much, and on the pitch he’d be a perfect fit for Sarrismo, even moreso than Eden Hazard (whose move to Real Madrid would fund the transfer). Plus, y’know, he looks good in blue, so as long as Chelsea can sort out their transfer ban, this would be a great move.

Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.

Wildcard: Real Madrid

This one is completely off the wall but what if Real Madrid came in for Coutinho? Obviously they’d have to offer a pretty penny to get Barcelona to agree to sell, but Los Blancos’ scattershot and improvised style might suit Coutinho more and if there’s any manager who could get him to be confident and perform to his level it would be Zinedine Zidane.

Wildcard: Liverpool

They say you should never go back, but why not? Liverpool never replaced Coutinho and although the initial changes to Liverpool’s style meant he probably couldn’t return, the Reds have evolved even further and now could really make use of an intensely creative attacking midfielder like Coutinho. So, y’know, why not Coutinho?

Squawka Suggests: Liverpool

As much as the Real Madrid idea is amusing, Barcelona would sooner pay Coutinho to sit on the bench until the end of his contract than sell him to Los Blancos where he could come back to haunt them. Liverpool, meanwhile, would be a lovely feelgood story about a cherished son returning home, a little chastened by his experience and all the more appreciative of the loving environment in which he was raised. It’s still a huge wildcard because why would the Reds “look back” when they could easily get a younger and cheaper creative midfielder?