After a disappointing 18 months in Barcelona, Philippe Coutinho requires a fresh start. An opportunity to kickstart his career.
It hasn’t worked out for the Brazilian at the Camp Nou. He has struggled for form and has never lived up to his £142m price tag. So it hardly came as a surprise when earlier this summer it became clear the Catalan side wanted to be rid of the former Liverpool star.
Antoine Griezmann was on his way to the Camp Nou and the powers that be also decided they wanted Neymar to return. Coutinho, the ugly duckling of the attack, was to be one of the players sacrificed.
And yet a move failed to materialise. Barcelona’s determination to recoup as much of the extravagant fee they paid the Reds the stumbling block. Quite simply, Coutinho isn’t deemed worth more than £100m.
Which is why, in the final hours of the English transfer window, Barcelona have softened their approach. They are now willing to let the 27-year-old leave on loan in the hope that a return to the Premier League can reinvigorate the midfielder.
And he is not short of suitors.
French newspaper L’Equipe claimed Arsenal were favourites to land the Copa America winner but that lasted an hour before ESPN’s Julien Laurens dismissed the reports.
Liverpool continue to be tentatively linked with a loan move for their former star despite Jürgen Klopp’s assertions that a deal will not be possible.
Manchester United are in the market for an attacker after failing to convince Paulo Dybala to sign from Juventus. And Tottenham Hotspur find themselves in a similar position, with reports in Italy claiming Mauricio Pochettino wants to reunite with a player he managed during his time at Espanyol.
But of the clubs Coutinho has been linked with, which would be the best fit for the fleet-footed Brazil International?
Here, we analyse his options.
Of those apparently in the running to sign Coutinho, Liverpool would perhaps be the player’s favoured destination.
It was at Anfield he played the best football of his career. He knows the players and he knows Klopp can get the best out of him.
It was under the German tactician that Coutinho went from erratic and unpredictable to ruthlessly consistent and reliably efficient. Despite playing with Mohamed Salah for just six months, the pair struck up quite an understanding. It wouldn’t take too long for them to rekindle that.
He was given the freedom to what he does best while on Merseyside. He’d pick the ball up on the left, cut inside and pull the strings from an attacking midfield position. Something he isn’t allowed to do at the Camp Nou.
However, after Coutinho made the move to Barcelona, reports emerged that claimed Klopp wasn’t sold on him as an attacker and the German didn’t believe he had the stamina to play in midfield.
By no means did the Liverpool boss shoehorn him into the team but it’s safe to say the former No.10 wouldn’t be top of his wishlist if he was tasked with putting a team together.
He might not fit Klopp’s profile for an attacker and this could mean the Reds don’t get involved in the conversation to sign him.
Spurs find themselves in a strange position. Linked with Bruno Fernandes and Giovani Lo Celso for the majority of the summer, they head into the final few days of the window without an attacking addition and there’s a high chance Christian Eriksen departs.
Sky Italia claim Dybala has turned down a move to the club, too, but the beaten Champions League finalists are now the bookies’ favourites to land Coutinho.
Pochettino knows all about the Brazilian’s talents. He managed him at Espanyol and then tried to sign him when he was at Southampton. Coutinho could replace Eriksen as an attacker but there’d have to be a tweak to the system, with the Barcelona man better on the left whereas the Spurs No.23 was usually deployed on the right.
So long as this doesn’t have a huge impact on the team, there’s no reason why Coutinho couldn’t have a lot of fun for Spurs.
With Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Heung-min Son playing off of him, the Samba star could be a game-changer in the final third. The difference between a top-four push and a title challenge.
The Red Devils, like Spurs, have been in the hunt for attacking reinforcements this summer but are yet to add to their ranks.
The defence has been addressed, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire arriving, and David de Gea should now have a bit more protection. However, going forward, United appear to lack something.
It’s something Coutinho has in abundance. The ability to create something out of nothing. The Barcelona man, if trusted, is a creative hub and can shoulder all of that responsibility. He’s not perfect in a midfield three but with a shored up backline, United can take more of a risk in the middle third.
Deploying Coutinho slightly ahead of Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay could be a masterstroke on the part of Ole Gunnar Solskjær. With Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and, say, Daniel James ahead of that trio, there’s pace to burn and lots of counter-attacking scenarios to exploit.
While it might not be a quintessential United side, it does have the ability to blow teams away and push them into the top four.
This link can’t be real. It just can’t. The Gunners are already top-heavy with Unai Emery adding Nicolas Pépé to an already stacked forward line.
Arsenal already have Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Özil, Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan as attacking options, while Reiss Nelson returned from a loan spell with Hoffenheim and Dani Ceballos arrived on loan from Real Madrid for the upcoming season.
It’s unlikely Emery benches one of Pépé, Aubameyang, Lacazette or Ceballos for many games. Striking a balance with that quartet alone will be difficult enough, adding Coutinho makes that task near impossible.
It’d be interesting to watch but it’s not sustainable. Emery already has selection headaches, adding to that would just be cruel.