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. 

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Javier Hernandez Named on List of Potential Targets for Barcelona After Munir Departure

?In one of the more bizarre transfer stories you’ll read this January, West Ham’s Javier Hernandez has reportedly been named on a six-man shortlist of transfer targets for Barcelona, as they seek to acquire some short-term backup for Luis Suarez. 

Academy graduate Munir departed for Sevilla last week, leaving the Catalan giants short of an alternative number nine to step in for Suarez, and speculation has since gone into overdrive as to who they could sign as a replacement. 

Luis Suarez

One such possibility, according to ?Sport, is ?West Ham’s out of favour striker Javier Hernandez, who is currently out with a back injury. 

The precarious claim is that ?Barca are after an experienced striker who knows European football, and will be available on a short-term basis until the end of the season, and it seems Hernandez’s name has been thrown into the picture by the Spanish outlet because he meets these criteria. 

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While it’s possible Barca could be looking at him as an experienced plan B to Suarez, however, the number of reasons it looks unlikely far outweigh the possibility of any transfer materialising.  

The 30-year-old’s best days seem to be long behind him, having only scored five goals in all competitions in an injury-ravaged season so far. Take into account the player’s Madrid connections, and the passionately unforgiving nature of the Barca faithful, and it looks like a bit of a stretch. 

Andy Carroll,Javier Hernandez

Fernando Llorente, ?Tottenham’s forgotten target-man, is another rumoured target, and looks a bit more likely, since he’s actually fit and has had substantial success in ?La Liga with Athletic Bilbao. 

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Transfer Rumours: Wilson to Wolves, Ndombele to Everton, Ake to Chelsea and More

We’re approaching the mid-way point of the January transfer window, and already we’ve seen a handful of completed deals, the early signs of a mid-season clear-out at Liverpool, and Manchester United, as ever, linked with an entire match-day squad of centre-backs.

Indeed, the window can move thick and fast, and as such, it can be hard to keep on top of even the confirmed happening, let alone the avalanche of rumours that emerges from the darkness around this time of year. 

With that in mind, we’ve thrown together a quick roundup of six rumours to have a look at today. 

1. Palace, Fulham and Huddersfield Among Interested Parties in USA Target-Man

Gyasi Zardes

Huddersfield have struggled desperately for goals so far this season, Fulham a little less so, but given each side’s woes throughout the first half of the season, it comes as no surprise to see them linked with some extra quality in the attacking third. 

TeamTalk have today claimed that both sides, as well as Crystal Palace and a host of Championship clubs, are interested in 27-year-old USA international Gyasi Zardes, who has scored 20 goals in 36 games for Columbus Crew in MLS.

At present, the talk is of a summer move for the versatile attacker, but whether Premier League  interest can inspire a January exit remains to be seen.

2. Everton Could Sell Idrissa Gueye to Finance Move for £75m-Rated Lyon Midfielder

Tanguy Ndombele,Stiven Mendoza

In one of the more outlandish rumours doing the rounds this afternoon, it’s reported that Everton could look to cash in on PSG’s interest in Idrissa Gueye, to raise funds for an ambitious move for Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele. 

This one comes from the Daily Star, who cover a lot of ground, but the central theme is that Lyon want £75m for the player, and Everton could move on Gueye to fund a large part of any potential fee.

Manchester City, Tottenham, Barcelona and Real Madrid are also credited with an interest, with the former reported to have already had a £45m bid for the player rejected.

3. Wolves Enter Race With Chelsea to Sign Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-BOURNEMOUTH

Wolves are reported to be interested in signing Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson, as they look for a proven goalscorer to challenge Raul Jimenez for a first-team place. 

Chelsea are widely thought to have earmarked the Cherries striker as a plan B to Gonzalo Higuain, and while the Birmingham Mail acknowledge that they remain favourites for his signature, they claim Wolves are now on the prowl for the 26-year-old and could rival the Blues’ efforts in securing him.

If Wilson does end up leaving Bournemouth this month, ten goals in 23 appearances in all competitions suggest he’ll be a decent addition wherever he lands. 

4. Real Madrid Send Scouts to Watch Genoa Starlet as They Seek Ronaldo Replacement

Genoa CFC  v Atalanta BC - Serie A

Over in Spain, it seems Real Madrid are still kicking themselves for failing to sign a viable replacement for Ronaldo in the summer, and are keen to act on that with a move for Genoa’s free-scoring Krzysztof Piatek.

With 13 goals, he’s the second top scorer in Serie A (to Ronaldo’s 14, ironically) and AS report his antics so far have piqued the interest of Real, who have had scouts closely monitoring him in recent weeks.

In all competitions, it’s 19 goals in 21 appearances so far for the 23-year-old. Not a bad return all things considered.

5. Nathan Ake Could Return to Chelsea as Blues Consider £40m Buy-Back Clause

Nathan Ake

In what could represent one of the worst bits of financial business since Manchester United lost almost £100m on Paul Pogba, Chelsea are reportedly considering meeting a £40m buy-back clause to secure the return of Nathan Ake, just two years after they sold him to Bournemouth for half of that. 

Whether or not the clause actually exists is of course up for debate, but the Sun claim it does, adding that Chelsea see £40m as a price worth paying for a player they perceive to be one of the best defenders in the league. 

He already has the haircut to replace the out of contract David Luiz should he depart in the summer, and as a composed, ball-playing defender, he fits the Maurizio Sarri mould to a tee. 

6. Barcelona Want Fernando Llorente as Back-Up for Luis Suarez

Manchester Unitied v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

To round things off with a nice weird one, Barcelona are considering bringing in forgotten Tottenham striker Fernando Llorente, as they seek an experienced alternative to Luis Suarez.

The 33-year-old, who moved from Swansea 18 months ago to act as Spurs’ plan B to Harry Kane, has managed just 36 minutes of Premier League action this season, and reports in Spain (via the Daily Mail, granted) claim that he could be in contention for a return to his native country with the La Liga leaders.

You can’t imagine there would be a lot more firs-team football on offer at the Nou Camp, but a high-profile return to La Liga to wind down his career might prove to be just the ticket for the target-man.

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Barcelona ‘Hope’ to Sign PSG Midfielder Adrien Rabiot in Coming Days But Wary of Griezmann Repeat

Barcelona are reportedly hopeful of signing Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot in the coming days, but remain wary of missing out as in the case of Antoine Griezmann last summer.

During the World Cup, after a prolonged period of intense scrutiny and rumours, Atletico Madrid star Griezmann stayed put at the Wanda Metropolitano, turning down an expected move to the Catalan giants.

UEFA Champions League'Paris St Germain v Liverpool FC'

?Marca now report that the optimism ?Barcelona had over Rabiot’s signing has slowly diminished, and has now turned to ‘constant worry’.

Rabiot has previously indicated his desire to move to the Camp Nou, but with no deal finalised as of yet, Ernesto Valverde’s sign are decidedly cautious.

The report adds however, that La Blaugrana are expected to step up their pursuit of the 23-year-old in the coming days, with Rabiot not travelling with the PSG squad that flew to Qatar.


The France international’s current deal with the Ligue 1 giants comes to an end in the summer, and is expected to cost Barcelona €10m-a-year in wages.

According to ?Paris United, the French side are intent on selling Rabiot this month, and value him at €15m.

After being handed his first-team debut with the Paris side under Carlo Ancelotti in 2012, Rabiot has gone on to make 227 appearances for the club, scoring 24 times. 

FBL-FRA-CHAMPIONS-TROPHY-MONACO-PSG

The midfielder has won numerous domestic titles in his time in France, with four Ligue 1 triumphs and a further 13 cup wins

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Have Barcelona Sacrificed Their World Famous La Masia Academy for Short Term Success?

?Before Barcelona’s 3-1 victory against Real Betis in 2013, a banner produced by their supporters was emblazoned with the words ‘La Masia no es toca’ which translates to ‘hands off our academy.’

Originally displayed as a protest towards FIFA’s decision to give the Blaugrana a transfer ban for illegally signing players, the sentiment behind it could ironically be linked to the club’s current situation.

Since this statement of defiance, only one academy graduate has managed to secure a permanent place in Barcelona’s starting eleven with ?Sergi Roberto establishing himself as the club’s first choice right back following Dani Alves’ departure to Juventus.

Pedro Bigas,Sergi Roberto

When ?Barcelona completed one of the greatest Champions League comebacks of all time against PSG in 2017, the clinching goal from Roberto was celebrated with an exuberance rarely seen at the Camp Nou.

For the clubs Cules, the Masia graduate’s classy strike symbolised much more than a goal to send them through to yet another European quarter final.

In a team full of stars purchased for premium prices such as ?Neymar and ?Luis Suarez, it was one of their own who had made history, a player who they could relate to as he was living their dream of representing the Blaugrana on the biggest of occasions.

Yet nearly two years on from that remarkable night, Roberto remains the club’s most recent academy success with fellow graduates Sergi Samper and Rafinha failing to make a lasting impression for manager Ernesto Valverde.

UEFA Champions League'FC Barcelona v Paris Saint Germain'

Last season saw the club respond to the sudden £198m departure of ?Neymar to PSG by spending extortionate amounts of money on Ousmane Dembele (£135.5m) from Borussia Dortmund and Phillipe Coutinho (£105m) from ?Liverpool. Neither player has come close to justifying their fees with both only showing glimpses of their undeniable talent.

Coutinho in particular has been lambasted by the Catalan press this season for his poor form with many supporters questioning just why their club didn’t just focus on developing some of the youth academy’s brightest prospects instead.

The summer arrivals of ?Arturo Vidal, Arthur, Malcom and Clement Lenglet have had a mixed impact on the club’s fortunes yet Barcelona once again are leading La Liga and have comfortably progressed into the last sixteen of the Champions League.

Thomas Vermaelen,Philippe Coutinho,Denis Suarez

By making these signings, the message sent to the Blaugrana’s youth players is incredibly alarming as their goal of representing the club grows ever harder.

Even Barcelona’s greatest prospects such as midfielder Carles Alena have been shunted in favour of statement transfers ordered by president Josep Bartomeu, who is a figure that divides opinion amongst shareholders at the Camp Nou.

Once tipped to be the heart of the first team’s midfield for years to come, Alena’s only appearances for the club have come primarily as a substitute as Valverde is unwilling to put his faith in the youngster.

Rumours circling that the Blaugrana could be about to sign Ajax starlet Frenkie de Jong will certainly do nothing to help the 21-year-old’s quest to become a regular first team starter and could even cast a doubt over the youngster’s future.

Carles Alena

Unfortunately the promising playmaker is far from the only example of Barcelona’s recent disregard for their academy graduates as striker Munir El Haddadi was also given limited chances to establish himself as part of a traditional front three.

The 23-year-old’s immense frustration of only being a sporadic member of the squad drove him to seek an alternative future at Sevilla, joining the Los Rojiblancos on Saturday for just £1m and becoming yet another member of La Masia to fail to make a lasting impact for the club.

As of January 2019, only four members of their typical starting eleven graduated from the club’s world famous academy with three of those (?Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and ?Gerard Pique) entering the latter stages of their career.

Whereas this generational talent will be undoubtedly tough to replace and in the case of Messi almost impossible, there are still a host of promising young talent coming through the ranks at La Masia.

FBL-EUR-C1-TOTTENHAM-BARCELONA

Creative midfielder Riqui Puig caught the attention of supporters when he impressed on the club’s pre-season tour whilst Oriol Busquets and Abel Ruiz have both stood out for Barcelona B during this year’s campaign.

Yet given the current situation at Barcelona, if one of the three eventually find their way into the starting eleven in Catalunya, it would be somewhat of a miracle.

In what was a club that was once championed for their promotion of the youth, Barcelona have transformed in recent years into something that the majority of their supporters despise, a ‘Galactico’-style team who rely solely on expensive transfer after expensive transfer.

Riqui Puig

Indeed in this modern era it is irresponsible to think that you can achieve long term success through not spending money yet in the case of the Catalan giants, a limit was set during the tenure’s of Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola who got the best out of the local talent.

The height of Barcelona’s success was their 3-1 Champions League Final victory over ?Manchester United in 2011 which was built on the foundations of La Masia with seven out of the starting eleven coming through its system.

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A golden generation of players that included the imperial Carles Puyol and the mercurial figures of Xavi and Iniesta, brought a pride to their supporters that the current side with its numerous imports from around the world will probably never reproduce.

With the club already five points clear at the top of La Liga, a 26th title could well be on its way but when the likes of Busquets, Roberto and Pique either retire or leave, who will be there to represent the people of Catalunya?

The board at Barcelona are playing a dangerous game by continuously selling their best Masia graduates and could pay a long-term price if they continue to ignore a youth academy that helped produce what has arguably been the club’s best era of football in their 119-year history.

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