Philippe Coutinho: Why Barcelona Should Stand by Him Despite a Difficult First Year at the Club

?It was meant to be the move of his dreams when Philippe Coutinho left Liverpool to join Barcelona in January 2018 for £146m, although a year on from the transfer, things haven’t quite gone according to plan for the Brazilian.

After a promising start to his career in Catalonia during the second half of last season, netting ten goals and providing six assists, the 26-year-old has found his first full season more problematic, with recent reports suggesting he could even leave the club.

Despite his well-documented struggles this season, ?Barcelona simply have to stick with the Brazil international, who will come good given both time and backing. 

UEFA Champions League'FC Barcelona v Tottenham Hotspur FC'

Compared to last season’s impressive tally, Coutinho has amassed just six goals and five assists across all competitions this campaign, with the ‘Little Magician’ repeatedly criticised for his inconsistent displays, while continual comparisons to club legend Andres Iniesta and confusion regarding his best position – left wing or centrally – clearly haven’t helped. 

To compound matters further, the attacker has become somewhat of a bit-part player under Ernesto Valverde this season, starting just ten ?La Liga games due to the boss reverting back to Barca’s more conventional 4-3-3 as opposed to the 4-4-1-1 Coutinho impressed in last season, coupled with the return to form of another recent big-money signing in Ousmane Dembele.

Philippe Coutinho

It has led to speculation regarding Coutinho’s future at the club, ?if Manchester United’s interest is to be believed, which as unlikely as it is, highlights his current standing at Barcelona which has clearly diminished compared to that of a year ago upon his arrival. 

Despite recent struggles, his time at ?Liverpool before his move to Barca points to keeping hold of Coutinho, especially judging by his numbers for the Merseyside club:

Philippe Coutinho’s Liverpool Goal and Assists Output (all competitions)

?Season Goals? Assist? ?Total
?2012/13* ?3 7? ?10
?2013/14 ?5 8? ?13
?2014/15 ?8 6? ?14
?2015/16 ?12 7? ?19
?2016/17 ?14 9? ?23
?2017/18** ?12 8? ?20

*joined Liverpool on January 30 2013

**left Liverpool on January 6 2018

Whether that was due to a positional change or the change in management style from Brendan Rogers to Jurgen Klopp, Coutinho’s creative output continually improved the longer he remained at Liverpool, and was on course for his best season at Anfield before his subsequent move. 

If Coutinho also wants to look for signs that his time at a big Spanish club will work out, then Luka Modric of Real Madrid is an ideal case study. 

After being voted MARCA’s worst signing of the 2012/13 season following his move from Tottenham, the Croat has since become a three-time Champions League winner and La Liga winner, as well as being the latest recipient of the prestigious Ballon d’Or, due in part to his performances for Los Blancos. 

An extraordinary example yes, but the similarities in playing style between the two, as well as initial struggles, suggest that Coutinho’s future at Barcelona is far from a lost cause, because of the immense talent the diminutive playmaker possesses and the phenomenal fee the club paid to land someone who was a long-term target.

Philippe Coutinho

While this season has largely been a disappointment for the former Liverpool and Inter man, it has provided moments that Blaugrana faithful can look on with promise, as Coutinho played a key part in an impressive 4-2 win against Tottenham, scoring a goal and providing an assist on the night – the only game this season he’s managed to do both.

More recently, his display during a 3-0 win against Eibar – which was his first La Liga start in five games – got people talking for the right reasons, with the Brazilian providing the assist for Luis Suarez’s opener from the left wing in ?what was a fine performance from him. 

Ruben Pena,Philippe Coutinho

At 26, it’s safe to say the best is yet to come from the attacker in a Barcelona shirt, who despite his difficult transition from Anfield to the Nou Camp is a talent too good to be discarded so soon.