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From Espanyol to Barcelona - the evolution of Philippe Coutinho

Malaga v Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

After a fantastic win against a short-handed Malaga side, Barcelona continue to strive for the treble. On Sunday, the key goal came in the 28th minute when Coutinho shut down the possibility of a Malaga comeback making it 2-0 for Barcelona. While Cules are already appreciative of Coutinho’s skill, a background of his history through the sport is necessary to understand how he has seamlessly integrated into this team.

Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Coutinho was excellent in Vasco de Gama’s youth system. In 2008, Inter Milan signed the young teenager for €4 million. While at Inter, fans and pundits agreed that Coutinho was the club’s future; a Brazilian player who possessed the skill, attitude, and intuition to excel in the Italian league. Coutinho started slowly though and found first-team opportunities limited after Inter’s treble success and older squad. In addition, after Jose Mourinho’s excellent stint at Inter, the club had a lot of different coaches in a short stint of time.

FC Internazionale Milano v FC Rubin Kazan - UEFA Europa League Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

In 2012, Inter loaned Coutinho to Spanish side Espanyol and the loan stint proved an instrumental part in the player’s development and his career aspirations. One of the largest influences on the Brazilian finding his footing at the club was none other than the gaffer, a young Mauricio Pochettino. Similar to his current strategy as manager of Tottenham, Pochettino places a large amount of trust into his youngsters. His opportunities came quickly and Coutinho scored 5 goals in 16 appearances. His stint at Espanyol also allowed Coutinho a close-up view of the greatest team on the planet, Barcelona. Still far away from being the world class player he is today, Coutinho realized that playing for Barcelona was his dream. After his loan stint with Espanyol, Liverpool made a wise investment in 2013 and paid €8.5 million for a player who was once considered the future of Inter.

Real Madrid CF v RCD Espanyol  - Liga BBVA Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

In his first year at Liverpool, Coutinho notched 13 appearances and three goals, building the confidence that we see everyday. In the 2013/14 season, Liverpool mounted a strong title campaign, but ultimately ended up two points short of Manchester City. In that season, Coutinho had the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest midfielders in English football, Steven Gerrard. In addition, Coutinho stuck a strong partnership with Luis Suarez and helped the Uruguayan tally an amazing return of 31 goals in 33 games. That season, Coutinho appeared in 33 games scoring 5 goals and assisting on another seven.

Aston Villa v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Now with Barcelona, Coutinho has integrated into the system without much of a hitch. Scoring a crucial goal against Valencia in the Copa del Rey and an additional two goals in league play versus Malaga and Girona. Even though Barcelona paid a large fee for the Brazilian, it seems as though the return on their investment will certainly be worth it.

New Barcelona Signing Philippe Coutinho Unveiled Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Ultimately, it is crucial to understand how Coutinho’s upbringing led to his current standing in the squad. The ability to transform a side with his skill was observed at Espanyol and Liverpool, where he was able to learn about La Liga and the physicality of the Premier League. Moving forward, Coutinho will continue to seek how to transform his style of play to better suit Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi, and a valuable midfield, but Barcelona can rest easy knowing that Coutinho has the attitude and skill to transform them for the better as well. Visca Barca!

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