The saga is over.
After multiple bids from Barcelona, Liverpool F.C. have finally bit the bullet and accepted a £142 million bid (add-on clauses included) for star attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho in what is the second-most expensive transfer in football history.
Phil finishes his career at Anfield having played 201 games and netted 54 goals for the club, but lifted no trophies.
The move puts Liverpool in a tough position. In a race for a top-four league finish and wanting to do well in the Champions League and FA Cup, the loss of the club’s best player, partnered with Emre Can’s move to Juventus happening this upcoming summer, means Liverpool must spend this money wisely.
Phil’s Next Step
What makes this transfer interesting and disheartening is that Phil signed a five-year contact in January 2017, committing to a bright future Liverpool has (or had) in front of them.
But this past August, just seven months later, Coutinho stabbed the Reds in the back, submitting a transfer request to management in order to force a move to his dream club, Barcelona.
The Brazilian will now have to adapt to life as an assistant at Camp Nou, playing in the shadows of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Sure, Coutinho is a big name player who has different strengths than them, but come on. Those two are the two of the best strikers in the entire world. The spotlight will always be on them.
Phil liked that Barcelona is built to win now, tomorrow and the next day. His dream was to win titles with the Catalonian giants. But I question whether Coutinho’s dream will see him succeed personally.
Phil needs the ball at his feet in order to truly be effective. He’s got good movement without the ball but needs to be on the ball, pulling the strings in order for his full potential to show. However, as a long-range specialist, he was amazing for the Reds, scoring 19 goals from outside the box.
I don’t know if he can get that at Barcelona. Not even the wonder boy, Neymar, could truly gel with Messi and Suarez, which eventually forced the Brazilian’s move to PSG this past summer in the largest transfer ever. The maestro Andres Iniesta still calls the shots and controls the ball, along with Messi. Phil will have to be patient early on. His chances will come. And so will the titles.
Coutinho will be unavailable for Champions League football the rest of the season at Barca, having already appeared in CL matches for Liverpool.
This is a huge deal considering the size of the fee for Coutinho, the wealth of talented clubs remaining in the Champions League, and the fact that they hold an 11-point lead over second-place Atletico Madrid in La Liga.
Coutinho does Barcelona no good other than depth in La Liga and Spain’s domestic cups. The Champions League trophy would be lifted without him making a dent in their run.
It would’ve been smarter for Barcelona to wait until the summer to make this deal happen. It also would’ve given Liverpool time to convince Coutinho, through some cup runs and another Champions League finish, to stay in England.
Reds must spend wisely
Not gonna lie, this hurts. To have your best player ripped from your Starting XI is going to be difficult to deal with.
Simply, a creative midfielder is needed. Liverpool need someone to collect the ball and force it up to the field into attacking areas, while also getting involved in the scoring as well. There are no easy replacements for Phil, but if I’m Klopp, these are some stars I’d look into this transfer window, especially with £142 million to spend.
Naby Keita, RB Leipzig
Okay, this one is already a done deal, but it still is vital for future success. Midfielder Naby Keita will arrive in July, after Klopp agreed to a fee for him from RB Leipzig this past summer. However, Keita is more possession and defensive-minded, eerily similar to Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante.
Isco, Real Madrid
Isco is a great option. Pacy, aggressive, creative, and young with first-team experience in La Liga and the Champions League. Madrid’s Manager Zinedine Zidane has an iffy relationship with him, preferring Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez in many matches. He could be on his way out if Madrid get Eden Hazard from Chelsea, which looks extremely possible.
Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Riyad Mahrez, the 2015-16 PFA Player of the Year, favors a move away from Leicester City this winter, and the Algerian would bring a different element to Liverpool. The strong and patient winger with a wicked left foot adds Championship DNA to a club striving to get to where Leicester were just two seasons ago.
Thomas Lemar, AS Monaco
The young French winger Thomas Lemar from Monaco is also a solid option. A sought after talent by the Premier League’s biggest names, Lemar is currently atop Liverpool’s list of transfer options to replace Phil. Monaco could be rolling in cash again, should Klopp come knocking.
As a fan, I’m bitter. I wanted more Coutinho. He was clever and clinical with the ball. But as a writer and football journalist, I’m excited to see what he can bring to the table at Barcelona. They’ve got quite the talent in lil’ Phil. He’ll be out for the first three weeks as he recovers from an injury, but should see valuable time in La Liga and cup matches when he returns.
This transfer is a lot to unpack and I have so much more to say, but for now, thank you for everything, Philippe Coutinho. While you may have left Anfield earlier than the Reds and the supporters wanted, remember this: You’ll Never Walk Alone.