Barcelona could ask La Liga to register Philippe Coutinho once he returns from his Bayern loan on 30 June so he can feature in the remainder of the season.
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge confirmed the club will not be activating the option to buy in the Brazilian’s loan contract, despite the diminutive playmaker enjoying a relatively productive campaign in Bavaria which has seen him notch eight goals and six assists in 22 Bundesliga games.
However, Coutinho may have played his last game in Die Roten colours after undergoing ankle surgery at the end of April.
Nevertheless, speaking to Spanish radio station Onda Cero, journalist Alfredo Martínez has revealed that Barcelona could register the Brazilian for the remainder of the La Liga campaign, which is set to get underway on 8 June after prime minister Pedro Sánchez gave the green light for the top flight’s resumption.
And with the Blaugrana a mere two points ahead of Real Madrid at the top of the table, the potential return of Coutinho will certainly be a boost for Quique Setién – who will also welcome back Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembélé from their respective injuries when La Liga returns.
Although he’s struggled for consistency ever since he arrived in Catalonia for a huge £145m fee back in 2017, the versatile Coutinho will nonetheless provide Setién with a more natural creator in the final third compared to the Catalans’ current crop of midfielders.
The onus on the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Arthur Melo to contribute from a goals and assists perspective has increased significantly to fill the void left by Suarez and Dembélé.
Martínez, meanwhile, also described the possibility of Coutinho being apart of the Blaugrana’s Champions League knockout run, if UEFA allows it. The Brazilian, of course, has already made seven appearances for Bayern in the competition this term.
However, if Setién doesn’t view the former Liverpool star as part of his future plans, then the Catalans could also look to offload him possibly even before he makes his 30 June return.
The club are racing against the clock to bring in around €70m in player sales before the start of July to balance the club’s accounts.
Every great superhero needs a sidekick, and that’s also true with European football’s top strikers.
There’s only a select few players who steal the limelight every week thanks to the sheer number of times they find the back of the net, but for every goal that’s scored, there’s almost always another player topping up their tally of assists too.
Europe’s best goalscorers often rely on one or two of their teammates to spoon feed them the majority of their strikes, creating some incredibly surprising (as well as blatantly obvious) partnerships we watch week in, week out.
But before we get underway, let’s all be sure about what we’re looking at.
These aren’t based off combined goals and assists between two players, so using the Eredivisie as an example, although AZ Alkmaar’s Myron Boadu and Ousamma Idrissi have been directly involved in 27 separate goals, Boadu has only assisted Idrissi six times this season – and we’re looking at the latter.
It will be little surprise to see Lewandowski feature on this list, and it won’t come as a shock that the Poland international pops up later on either.
Monaco have had a season to forget in Ligue 1, but striker Wissam Ben Yedder has been a shining light for the club and sits level at the top of France’s goalscoring chart.
More than 22 per cent of Ben Yedder’s goals in Ligue 1 have been set up by Keita Baldé Diao.
Things haven’t exactly fallen into place under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but Marcus Rahsford’s partnership with Daniel James – especially on the counter attack – has been a big plus for Manchester United.
The Serie A hasn’t had a title race in a few years, but the creativity of Lazio’s Luis Alberto has been key in this season’s fascinating battle for the Scudetto.
The key to success for Augsburg really is quite simple. Get Philipp Max tacking set pieces and aim every cross towards Florian Niederlechner.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been one of Europe’s top goalscorers for a generation, but his partnership with Uruguay international Rodrigo Bentancur might be one of the most surprising.
Four of Lucas Olaza’s five assists this season have been to set up Iago Aspas, Celta Vigo’s top goalscorer by quite some distance.
It was Bayern Munich’s Lewandowski who’s received the most attention this season, but before the Bundesliga’s restart, Ciro Immobile was actually the top goalscorer across Europe.
It looks like the Premier League dream will end for Norwich City, but thanks to Emi Buendía and Teemu Pukki, their one season back in the top flight has been a very, very memorable one.
It might not seem like an impressive partnership considering they’re on par with Norwich City and Celta Vigo, but Luis Suárez has missed a large chunk of the season through injury.
Timo Werner’s been getting all sorts of attention this season, but it’s been new signing Christopher Nkunku who’s helped the most with the Germany international’s goalscoring record.
Ronaldo’s on-field relationship with Bentancur might be a surprise, but this one certainly isn’t.
They’re players you probably hadn’t heard of before this season, but Union Berlin’s two star players have been essential in their fight to avoid relegation.
Wolves have been able to throw themselves into the mix for Champions League qualification thanks to a few different factors, and although they’re certainly not a one trick pony, Adama Traoré’s relationship with Raúl Jiménez has been crucial.
It’s not Paris Saint-Germain’s most high-profile attacking partnership, but Kylian Mbappé has Ángel Di María to thank for half a dozen of his goals in Ligue 1.
Lewandowski’s targeting a new personal best in the Bundesliga this season and he’s only three goals off his all-time best of 30, so he’ll be looking towards Thomas Müller to help get him over the line before the end of the campaign.
Two-thirds of Mbappé’s 18 goals in Ligue 1 this season have been set up by Neymar or Di María.
Kevin De Bruyne’s tally of six assists for Sergio Agüero alone has already eclipsed what they managed during the entirety of the 2017/18 Premier League season for Manchester City.
Following almost 15 years of supremacy, which saw them spearhead a footballing revolution and form some of the game’s greatest ever sides (led by academy products), things are starting to unravel bit by bit in Catalonia.
From woeful – and I mean woeful – recruitment to persistent European collapses, La Blaugrana, quite frankly, have turned into a bit of a weird club.
Nevertheless, with the Catalans desperate to earn €70m in player sales before the end of June to balance the club’s accounts (and prepare for the arrival of Lautaro Martinez), expect a fair few higher-valued stars to depart Catalonia imminently.
And if Miralem Pjanic for Arthur Melo are the sort of deals the Catalans are prepared to entertain, expect things to get even weirder at the Camp Nou.
So, here’s a list of players who could be departing Barcelona at the end of the season, accompanied with potential fees and suitors…
When the Brazilian rose to prominence following a masterclass in efficient midfield play against Tottenham at Wembley in October 2018, Arthur Melo looked set to be a fixture in the Barcelona midfield for the next decade.
For some reason, however, the club are seemingly keen to see him exit the Camp Nou in favour of Juventus’ Pjanic, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Sure, he might’ve struggled with ‘injury’ this term, but the 23-year-old has enjoyed a fairly productive campaign in the final third and is one of the finest in Europe in the first and second phases as a result of his supreme press-resistance, locomotion and capacity to combine off one and two touches with ease.
Estimated Price: £45m Suitors: Juventus
Arguably the finest to strut their stuff down the Camp Nou right flank in a post-Dani Alves world, 26-year-old Nelson Semedo is a player who could bring back a healthy economic return.
While not a prolific performer in the final third, Semedo’s athleticism, technique and astuteness in one-on-one situations makes him a valuable asset, and someone who would excel at several of Europe’s elite.
Estimated Price: £50m Suitors: Juventus, Manchester City, Inter
Jordi Alba’s hamstrings have granted Junior Firpo ample opportunity to impress at left-back in his debut campaign, which he…has not.
While his skill set fits the ‘Barça way’ like a glove, Firpo, for all his impressive defensive work, has been frustrating to watch for much of the season due to his attacking incompetence.
Although, it would’ve been interesting to see how he fared under former Betis boss Quique Setien in Catalonia, La Blaugrana are set to cut their losses after just one season.
Flying-high from a superb individual campaign amid France’s World Cup victory in 2018, persistent injury woes have prevented Samuel Umtiti from cementing himself as one of Europe’s most dominant defenders.
A majestic 2017/18 campaign saw him revolutionise the Barça backline alongside Gerard Pique, but he’s merely been a shadow of his former self in recent times.
And with Clement Lenglet ably stepping up to fill the void, La Blaugrana would be wise to move on from the perma-crocked Frenchman.
Estimated Price: £27m Suitors: Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal
A mightily successful and underrated six-year spell at Barcelona looks to be coming to an end for Ivan Rakitic, who has often filled in as public scapegoat number one for some of the club’s less tolerant fans.
Despite the Croat himself admitting he’d be ‘happy’ to stay in Catalonia, it appears he’ll be one of the first on the chopping block in the Blaugrana purge.
The 32-year-old would provide invaluable functionality, versatitlity and experience for his next club.
Inter appear to have a weird fetish for Arturo Vidal, one only enhanced by the arrival of Antonio Conte last summer.
While the 33-year-old Chilean is certainly past his best, there’s little doubting he has the capacity to compete at the highest level for at least another campaign.
His work out of possession is vastly under-appreciated, while his versatility has often seen him shifted out to right in order to fulfil Setien’s tactical desires.
The addition of Vidal for a slashed fee would represent an astute bit of work on behalf of the Nerazzurri.
Estimated Price: £12m Suitors: Inter
Following a frustrating campaign in Bavaria, Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently announced the club won’t be activating the option to buy in Coutinho’s loan contract.
The 27-year-old, therefore, will return to Catalonia at the end of the season, where he’ll likely be offloaded once more. While the Brazilian still holds significant value, he’s also not the profile of player Barcelona need right now.
A return to the Premier League looks probable, as Barcelona set themselves for a drastic loss on a player they once splurged £145m on in 2017.
Estimated Price: £45m Suitors: Chelsea, Leicester, Newcastle, Arsenal
Setien’s admiration of Dembele makes the Frenchman’s departure unlikely, but if all else fails, the former Betis boss may have to wave goodbye to the supremely gifted winger.
The 23-year-old’s ambidexterity is unique, while his creativity and innovation in possession can be spellbinding when in full cry.
If only he didn’t have paper hamstrings, eh?
Estimated Price: £60m Suitors: Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Liverpool
Juventus have taken an interest in Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembélé and the Frenchman could be used as part of the deal which would see Miralem Pjanic move to Catalonia.
The Blaugrana are keen to get a number of high earners off their books to ease some financial pressure amid the coronavirus pandemic. Along with Dembélé, the likes of Nelson Semedo, Samuel Umtiti, Ivan Rakitic and Arthur Melo are among the high-profile stars Barcelona are supposedly willing to jettison once the transfer window reopens.
Catalan news outlet Mundo Deportivo has reported Juventus, who are currently locked in negotiations with Barça regarding a swap deal between Pjanic and Arthur, have enquired about the possibility of including 23-year-old Dembélé as part of the deal instead.
Arthur isn’t keen on departing Camp Nou, and with the Brazilian unlikely to have a change of heart anytime soon, the two clubs are said to be exploring possibilities with other players.
Right-back Nelson Semedo is another who’s cropped up as an alternative, although the Portuguese international is subject of interest from Manchester City and, according to his agent Jorge Mendes, could be included in a swap deal which would see Joao Cancelo make the switch to Catalonia.
So that leaves Dembélé, who – despite his persistent injury woes – remains an exciting option for Juventus due to his supreme talent.
Since his hefty £97m move from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, Dembele has been able to turn out in Blaugrana colours on just 74 occasions, scoring 19 times. Following a fairly productive La Liga campaign which saw him rack up 13 goal contributions, a pair of hamstring injuries have seen him notch a mere 492 minutes in all competitions this term.
And with his injury history in mind, Juve are believed to be interested in securing the Frenchman on an initial loan deal before making an assessment about his long-term future.
Barcelona boss Quique Setien, however, is a fan of Dembele due to the different dynamic he provides to the Catalans’ attack as a result of his willingness to run in behind and ambidexterity. A potential deal, therefore, could be tricky.
7 May, 2008. A normal day for most, but the perfect party for Real Madrid fans.
Having clinched the La Liga title three days prior with a 2-1 victory at Osasuna, the imperious Los Blancos starting XI were greeted with a pasillo – guard of honour – from their dejected rivals as they entered the Bernabeu cauldron with an obvious swagger.
The pasillo alone would have been satisfactory enough for the home faithful – seriously, some fans left after the pre-match antics, while Catalan newspaper Sport advised readers not to switch on until 10:05pm when the nightmare was all over – but Bernd Schuster’s side ensured celebrations would last long into the Madrid night with a superb display in the Clásico.
Raul kick-started the romp in the 13th minute with a sweeping left-footed effort from the edge of the area following some fine build-up play, before Arjen Robben doubled the hosts’ lead with, beg your pardon…a header?!?
That’s right. Pre-total baldness as well.
Substitutes Gonzalo Higuain and Ruud van Nistelrooy heaped the misery on Frank Rijkaard’s side as they both scored with their respective first-touches in the second period.
Although Thierry Henry bagged a late consolation, events which followed the pre-match pasillo can only be described as a paseo – a walk in the park.
Key Talking Point
From pasillo to paseo, this was purely a celebration of a spellbinding Real Madrid side.
After Fabio Capello had guided them to La Liga triumph in 2006/07, Los Blancos had the difficult task of retaining their title the following year with former Getafe boss Schuster at the helm.
But in the end, they waltzed to consecutive crowns; finishing a hefty eight points ahead of Villarreal and a staggering 18 ahead of Barcelona.
This was a side sturdy enough in defence, tremendously well-balanced in midfield and that boasted incredible depth in attacking areas. The use of inverted wingers, most notably with Wesley Sneijder in this one, allowed for rapid combination play in central areas and persistent numerical superiority.
A superb side at their awe-inspiring finest in the May Clásico.
Substitutes: Higuain (7), Robinho (7), Van Nistelrooy (6).
Diarra played a pivotal role in Real’s title defence, as his tactical astuteness and comfort at which he screened the back four granted the likes of Fernando Gago and Guti greater freedom from box-to-box roles.
His function in the side was somewhat similar to that of Claude Makelele’s in the pre-Galacticos era.
Nevertheless, the Mali international was superb in this one as his aggression often thwarted Barcelona from progressing centrally, while he also proved an unstoppable force when driving forward with possession, setting up Higuain’s strike following a determined surge down the right flank.
Key Talking Point
Embarrassed. Humiliated. Gutless.
And much like Real Madrid’s display, Barcelona’s was a microcosm of their 2007/08 campaign. Torrid.
Rafael Marquez’s fridge-like agility was ruthlessly exposed. Xavi was overwhelmed, non-existent and eventually escaped the nightmare with a red card, while they were totally reliant on Lionel Messi to conjure up some magic from thin air in the final third. The need for wholesale changes in the summer couldn’t have been more apparent.
Overall, it was a bitter end to the Rijkaard era which returned a pair of La Liga titles and a Champions League triumph in 2006.
Barcelona Player Ratings
Starting XI: Valdes (6); Zambrotta (5), Marquez (5), Puyol (6), Abidal (6); Xavi (3), Toure (7), Gudjohnsen (5); Messi (6), Bojan (5), Henry (6).
Substitutes: Dos Santos (6), Sylvinho (6), Edmilson (5).
Amid a humiliating day in La Blaugrana’s recent history, the gangly Ivorian put in a respectable display in the middle of the park.
Paired alongside an incompetent Xavi and Eidur Gudjohnsen – for about 20 minutes before he was hauled off for no apparent reason – Toure somewhat held his own against an on-song Real midfield which persistently had a numerical advantage thanks to the movement of Raul in a withdrawn forward role and Wesley Sneijder from out wide.
The poor lad tried his best, okay?
What Aged the Worst
This Bojan Krkic fella was supposed to be the next Lionel Messi, right? He had the shaggy hair and everything!
Although the Spaniard was isolated as the front man in this one, the then 17-year-old had burst onto the scene following his debut in September that season, finishing the campaign with ten La Liga strikes.
However, the fact he was lining up alongside Charlie Adam and Ryan Shawcross merely three years removed from his departure from Catalonia in 2011 suggests not everything quite went to plan.
Giovanni Dos Santos is another who failed miserably in his bid to fulfil his lofty potential, while Schuster’s coaching career took a significant u-turn after the La Liga triumph. The German was sacked in December 2008 before going to manage Malaga, Besiktas and Dalian Yifang with minimal success.
What Aged the Best
Marcelo was superb in the ’08 Clásico in what many cited as his finest performance in Los Blancos colours up until that point. But how ’bout that barnet?
Sure, the neat and tidy two all over was cute ‘n all, but the outlandish afro would become symbolic of the flamboyant Brazilian full-back during his decade of dominance down the Bernabeu left.
What Happened Next
La Blaugrana would round off the campaign with a victory away Murcia following a 3-2 home defeat to Mallorca, before, well, Pep Guardiola happened.
The unproven boss was drafted in that summer as Rijkaard’s replacement to immediately rid Catalonia of the dark final days of the Dutchman’s reign. Guardiola’s 2008/09 and 2010/11 sides are two of the best in football history, as Barça re-established themselves as Spain’s supreme force.
Surprisingly, meanwhile, only three players who started this Clásico – Xavi, Carles Puyol and Sergio Ramos – would be apart of the Spain squad which triumphed at Euro 2008 that summer.