Football Features

Liverpool transfer looks like a pipe dream, so who could Philippe Coutinho realistically join?

By Muhammad Butt

Liverpool transfer looks like a pipe dream, so who could Philippe Coutinho realistically join?

Published: 11:34, 12 February 2020

Philippe Coutinho can’t seem to catch a break.

The Brazilian left Liverpool to join Barcelona in January 2018, and whilst he won back-to-back La Liga titles, he didn’t have the best time of things individually in the Spanish capital. Meanwhile, the Reds went from strength to strength and won the Champions League, and now look to be on course for their first Premier League title in 30 years.

Coutinho isn’t even playing for Barcelona right now, enjoying Quique Setién’s revolution. Instead, he’s on a year-long loan to Bayern Munich, a move that began nicely enough but since the departure of Niko Kovac has flat-lined badly. He looks to be out-of-favour in Bavaria and it seems unlikely they will trigger the buy-option in his contract.

Now, if Barcelona don’t want him back (that club has no long-term vision so don’t rule it out) then where else could the Brazilian go? We’ve had a look and come up with four options.

Dream: Liverpool

In Coutinho’s absence, Liverpool have become the best team in the world, so whilst returning back to Anfield may seem like acknowledging his failure, it would also be a dream move to the world’s elite team as well as returning to a squad of players he knows and loves.

Coutinho has been unable to forge a partnership like he the one he had with Roberto Firmino, for instance, and his quiet head-down nature was always a good fit with Jurgen Klopp’s style of management. The Brazilian was Liverpool’s best player and Klopp’s shining star, even as he was aching to leave and join Barcelona through the latter half of 2017.

Dreams always carry a hint of impossibility about them. Here that takes the form of a rumour suggesting Coutinho is Liverpool’s second choice should they be priced out of a move for Kai Havertz, which comes from Express Sport.

Then again, maybe this transfer is more of a pipe dream. Comments made at a Liverpool Supporters Club meeting by CEO Peter Moore suggest as much.

“If you recall, when he left two years ago, then it was a complete change of style of play and we [hardly] lost a game over the balance of the season,” Soccer Laduma quotes him as having said on Saturday.

“No disrespect to Philippe but he had a different style of play.”

Realistic: Chelsea

You have to be realistic, and for Coutinho that means he might have to return to the Premier League but not join Liverpool. Coutinho has always voiced his reticence to that, but now his situation is much more desperate so he may be forced to do something he doesn’t want to.

In truth, Coutinho may have joined Chelsea straight from Barcelona in the summer had the Blues not been banned from signing new players. Now that ban has expired and the Blues have two windows worth of transfer budget in reserve you’d expect they will want to make a splash and adding a player who scores goals, given their struggles in that area, make a tonne of sense.

Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 system offers up two obvious positions for Coutinho to start in, as an attacking midfielder or wide on the left cutting infield. Moreover, the man who currently wears his preferred no. 10 shirt, Willian, will likely leave the club in the summer as his contract expires. This move makes entirely too much sense.

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Wildcard: Manchester United

In addition to potentially joining Chelsea, Coutinho has also been linked with a move to Manchester United. Again this move made a lot of sense in the summer with the Red Devils having a massive hole in their side at no. 10; a hole Coutinho’s creativity and goals would have filled perfectly. The Brazilian would have been the focal point of a young attacking side and could have thrived.

That role is still technically there to be filled should United come back in for the Brazilian. And Coutinho would still be a success at United, but this move is much more of a wildcard than the Chelsea one because United recently signed Bruno Fernandes, who can play no. 10, and have been linked with Jack Grealish for this summer, another no. 10 – so the Brazilian seems to be out of their thinking for now. Which is just as well really, because Coutinho was allegedly not keen on moving to Old Trafford out of respect for former club Liverpool.

Squawka Suggests: PSG

The smartest possible move for Coutinho wouldn’t be to the Premier League or even back to Serie A, but instead going to Ligue 1 and PSG. The French champions are the country’s dominant side, true, but that would only afford Coutinho the chance to hoover up medals.

Moreover, PSG have more financial muscle than pretty much any club around and are clearly serious about making a big push for European success. So it’s not like Coutinho may have to even drop out of the Champions League as he would possibly have to do with moves to Chelsea or United. PSG would keep him right at the top table of European football, playing alongside the phenomenal Kylian Mbappé and Neymar.

Angel di Maria has shown that it doesn’t matter if you flopped elsewhere, you can rebuild yourself in Paris. Coutinho would also be a perfect fit for one of the two attacking midfield spots in Thomas Tuchel’s 4-2-2-2 formation and would dovetail superbly well with his compatriot and close friend Neymar.