When Barcelona journey to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, it is unclear whether or not their report signing will participate.
It is a must-win sport for Xavi’s workforce. In any other case, a house victory for Benfica over already eradicated Dynamo Kyiv would see Barca fail to achieve the Champions League group stage for the primary time since 2004.
Former Liverpool celebrity Philippe Coutinho, nonetheless, is way from sure to play in opposition to his former membership, having made a gradual slide from the third-most costly participant in historical past to a largely missed afterthought.
What on earth has occurred?
The dream grew to become a nightmare
The catalyst for Coutinho’s arrival in Barcelona in January 2018 was a pair of key departures – Neymar’s shock transfer to Paris St-Germain in August 2017 and the information that membership icon Andres Iniesta was quickly heading via the exit door.
Loaded with £200m from the enforced sale of Neymar and due to this fact in a weak bargaining place, Barca by no means hid the actual fact Coutinho was their primary goal to grow to be the ‘new Iniesta’ and the ‘new Neymar’ rolled into one.
Liverpool resisted however finally negotiated an preliminary £106m charge, permitting Coutinho to finish his “dream” transfer to the Catalan coast.
However the dream quickly grew to become a nightmare. It was shortly obvious – because it in all probability at all times ought to have been – that Coutinho was not suited to both of his anticipated new roles. He needed to play additional ahead than Iniesta’s disciplined midfield function and extra centrally than Neymar’s left-wing slot.
As an alternative, he most well-liked to roam extra central areas and discover house between the traces of the opposition midfield and defence. However Barca already had somebody fulfilling that function and there was no means Coutinho would ever usurp Lionel Messi because the workforce’s most important creator.
So Coutinho ended up typically getting in Messi’s means, disrupting the workforce’s rhythm by taking too many touches and diminished to hopeful long-range strikes with sporadic success – main social media wits to sarcastically dub him ‘Shootinho’.
Loaned out, injured, undesirable
The arrival of Antoine Griezmann in July 2019 additional hindered Coutinho’s hopes of turning into a key participant and he was pushed out to Bayern Munich on a season-long mortgage that Barca hoped would result in a everlasting sale.
However Coutinho was not more than a bit-part participant in Germany too, beginning lower than half of Bayern’s video games. The spotlight of his spell got here within the Champions League in opposition to none aside from his dad or mum membership Barca, scoring twice off the bench within the era-defining 8-2 quarter-final pummelling.
Bayern rejected the possibility to signal Coutinho completely, preferring to spend their Covid-19 diminished funds on Leroy Sane from Manchester Metropolis, so the Brazilian was despatched again to Barcelona in the summertime of 2020.
He discovered the membership in a state of disarray. Messi was in open warfare with membership president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who would quickly be pressured to resign, Luis Suarez led a line of established veterans who had been pressured out, and new supervisor Ronald Koeman was struggling to impose his authority.
However, Coutinho made a promising begin to the 2020-21 season and located favour with Koeman, turning into a daily within the beginning line-up earlier than his newest setback got here within the type of a knee harm that sidelined him for eight months, scuppering financially determined Barca’s flagging hopes of promoting him final summer time.
The result was one other wasted season.
Nonetheless a misfit… Newcastle-bound?
When Coutinho returned in September, Koeman was in his final days in cost because the workforce stumbled from one disaster to a different. Coutinho quickly sparked controversy by warming up with depressing reluctance throughout interim boss Sergi Barjuan’s closing sport at Celta Vigo.
But when the 29-year-old thought Xavi’s arrival would herald a contemporary alternative, these hopes have been quickly dashed.
Coutinho was a late substitute within the new boss’ first sport – a 1-0 residence win over Espanyol. However he was then left on the bench for the Champions League draw with Benfica regardless of the very important nature of the tie, Xavi preferring youngsters Yusuf Demir, Nico Gonzalez and Gavi to the membership’s report signing.
He did rating a late penalty off the bench in opposition to Villarreal, however Saturday’s residence loss in opposition to Actual Betis was one other disappointment. Coutinho acquired his first begin underneath Xavi and made an honest early impression earlier than fading badly and being changed earlier than the hour mark.
Soccer analyst Domagoj Kostanjsak defined why Coutinho appears to be like unlikely to take pleasure in a revival underneath Xavi, even now Messi has gone.
He informed BBC Sport: “With Xavi, width and verticality are extra related than up to now. Xavi loves aggressive midfielders who make runs past the opposition’s line and assault house with tempo and energy. Coutinho cannot try this.
“We’re by no means going to see Coutinho’s full potential at Barca except the system is catered in direction of him, which is unlikely to say the least. He does not match the winger or the midfielder roles – and the quantity 10 function he loves does not exist in such a strategy to accommodate his ability set.”
Certainly, Barca’s best hope for Coutinho now could be promoting him – ideally to a cash-rich bold membership like Newcastle – to cut back the membership’s debt and presumably even fund new signings similar to Manchester Metropolis’s Ferran Torres, who’s a most important goal for Xavi.
Within the quick future, although, Wednesday’s decisive date with Bayern – like a lot of the previous 4 years – is one other sport that might nicely go Coutinho by.