opinions | 2017-05-10
Third time might just be the charm for Coutinho to join Barcelona
The Brazilian midfielder continues to be linked with a move to Barça for the third straight summer
For the third significant time Philippe Coutinho is being linked to a Barcelona switch. At first glance, this is a highly logical development, as he currently plies his trade for Liverpool - in what is widely considered by Bleacher Report to be the most physically demanding league in the world. Coutinho, now in the prime of his career, would therefore bring unparalleled intensity to a Barcelona side that recently missed out on a sixth Champions League title in twenty-five years after failing to trouble Juventus over two Quarterfinal legs. Where conditioning is concerned, his presence would ensure that his Barcelona are once against fully primed to take on two matches a week against the elite of Europe at the tail end of a long and tiring season.
Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta could await Coutinho this summer (FC Barcelona Team of the Year 2011 by Globalite)
Benefits of British Influence
Although Liverpool FC currently stands to qualify directly for the Group Stage of next season's Champions League, a study by Betway has identified Coutinho's current team as marginal overachievers, around the middle of scale that ranks teams based on the number of points gained from outside bets. Watford, for instance, have been deemed the greatest overachievers, thanks largely to a shock 2-1 victory (then priced at 12/1) over Arsenal at the Emirates. Liverpool, for their part, have given punters an extra £7 over the expected average payout for their wins this season. The Reds' 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge in September was the biggest 'shock' of the season, resulting in a £23 payout from a hypothetical £10 bet. Yet, for the Anfield faithful, the only statistic that matters is Liverpool sitting in third place on 70 points as the Premier League enters its final month. Of nearly the same significance is Coutinho's current haul of 10 goals in 28 appearances, along with an 83% pass completion rate.
Ever-dangerous when fully fit, Philippe Coutinho is Liverpool’s MVP of 2016/17 (Phillipe Coutinho by Kevinzim)
Battle of the Entertainers
Despite demanding marginally less astronomical levels of fitness than its English counterpart, La Liga still demands a big-game mentality, with only three teams - courtesy of vast resources - likely to challenge for silverware for the foreseeable future. Indeed, such has been the gulf between the top three and the rest of La Liga, that a final tally of more than 90 points has often been required to secure the title in recent years. As such, no club is left under any illusion as to just how competitive La Liga is when it comes to who can win the title. There would, therefore, be the ever-present feeling that Coutinho would be at risk of becoming a mere stand-in for Lionel Messi or Neymar as part of a squad rotation system if indeed he was to make the boldest of moves.
Nobody is under any illusion as to just how competitive La Liga's title race is, with Barcelona and Real Madrid often finishing near-neck and neck over the last five seasons.
Messi and Neymar have won top domestic honours in an elite European league on multiple occasions, with the duo's haul - for Barcelona alone - including eight La Liga titles and four Champions League trophies - not to mention an array of Super Cups and Copa del Rey triumphs. By contrast, Coutinho has just the 2011 Coppa Italia (with Inter Milan) to show for his club level efforts. Ultimately, only continual experience of attaining superlative triumphs can breed the sort of confidence needed to consistently challenge for domestic and European doubles with Barcelona. Coutinho - for all his self-evident skill - ultimately might lack that 'big game' mentality.
Neymar has the power
Although one could point to Coutinho’s slight frame, versus the physicality of the English game, as a mitigating circumstance the statistics do not lie:
Though clearly Liverpool's MVP, Coutinho does not compare at all favourably with Neymar, the fellow countryman who he would be looking to play together for the first team on arrival. Neymar is not even a midfielder by trade, yet his current tally of 73 key passes utterly eclipses Coutinho's relatively meagre total of 50. has played far less key passes than Neymar. He has also created a lower number of significant chances compared to Neymar.
In a true ‘flush or bust’ move, the next might also consider deploying Coutinho in a deeper-lying role. Again, though, he falls short of Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets’ empirical qualities – such as pass completion rate – in midfield. With all of this taken into account, along with Rakitic’s apparent loyalty, Coutinho is marked as a potential square peg in a Barcelona squad that needs more than minimal tuning over the summer.
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