After completing his blockbuster move from Liverpool to FC Barcelona, Philippe Coutinho has yet to make an appearance. And it’s likely he won’t for a couple weeks due to an injury. In the meantime, we analyze the benefits - and the doubts - of this mega deal.
PRO: Coutinho is a great player
It kind of goes without saying, but to be fair, Coutinho has actually played arguably his best half-season so far with Liverpool. He’s making chances and scoring, with 7 goals and 6 assists in 14 appearances in the Premier League. He was among the best players in England. Perhaps, as WhoScored.com rates him, the best. Even some who were a bit skeptical before are being won over.
CON: His price
Is he worth the ludicrous price? It’s tough to say because after Neymar left for Paris Saint-Germain, what is and isn’t ludicrous has become blurry. This may just be the new normal. There are some who argue he’d be even more expensive after the FIFA World Cup. Perhaps that’s just the way things are. Still, we are talking about the second-most expensive player ever, after Neymar.
PRO: Coutinho will allow Iniesta rest
Coutinho fits in as Andrés Iniesta’s replacement in the middle of the park. Iniesta is still great, but he’s getting up there in age, and his retirement looms. When Xavi left Barça, they didn’t really have a superstar replacement ready, and perhaps it cost them. In the meantime, Iniesta can extend his career by playing less, and Barcelona may not notice the dip in quality too much with Coutinho as his sub. That’s especially crucial to have Iniesta fresh for the UEFA Champions League because...
CON: He is cup tied
One of the biggest problems with the transfer is that Coutinho cannot play the Champions League. Barcelona have a big test coming up with Chelsea, and it’ll likely only get tougher from there. Barça may rue not getting a player in this transfer window to bolster their European chances.
PRO: Coutinho fits into Barcelona’s style of play
With his vision, passing, dribbling, and flair on the ball, Coutinho seems like a good fit for Ernesto Valverde’s team. Valverde has drilled Barça well into a unit that doesn’t concede many chances, but on the ball, perhaps they are missing a bit more magic. Coutinho is exactly the type of player to remedy that.
CON: Was it the most pressing need?
There are some who insist that while Coutinho’s inclusion was important, even more important was another kind of midfielder: a Xavi replacement. Yes, even today, Barça do not have a real Xavi replacement. Sure, they have midfielders, but none that match his style. The likes of Thiago Alcántara or Marco Verratti spring to mind as possible signings, as does rising star Arthur Melo. Maybe Barça will sign Melo (the other two seem unrealistic), or maybe Valverde’s system does not necessitate a “Xavi-like” player, only Coutinho. We’ll see.
PRO: Coutinho has a half season to bed in
Coutinho is at the Camp Nou for the long haul, so Barça are OK not having him for the Champions League this year. They’ll have him next season, and in the mean time, he’ll have time to adjust. The pressure won’t be quite so high, and he’ll be able to re-acclimatize himself to Barcelona (where he used to live when he played for Espanyol), as well as build relationships with his new teammates.
CON: He probably won’t be needed right away
With Barcelona’s commanding lead in the league (nine points over Atlético Madrid), it’s thought that Barça won’t need Coutinho at all to win. This assumption could prove foolish, but it also might be true. And yes, Coutinho will play in the Copa del Rey, but that’s only a few games at most, and the least important competition Barça is playing at the moment. That’s a lot of money both in terms of transfer fee and wages to spend on a player Barça won’t need right away. It’s even less of a need, when you consider he comes injured, so he’ll miss a couple more cup and league games. But as said before, Coutinho is here for the long run. Perhaps it’s worth it, even if he’s not needed right away.
More pro or con?
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