What’s Next For FC Barcelona Star Philippe Coutinho After Bayern Flop?
It’s business as usual for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. Hansi Flick’s team is within touching distance of a new domestic crown, but one player, who hasn’t found a happy space at the Allianz Arena, is Philippe Coutinho, on loan from FC Barcelona. Thomas Muller is rejuvenated and Alphonso Davies and other youngsters are soaring, but the Brazilian, injured, is a surplus to requirements.
The Brazilian’s 28th birthday party will be on hold next week because he is no longer wanted in Munich. The club has decided to not take up his $134m purchase option. In a reaction, Coutinho’s agent Kia Joorabchian, never shy of media-tic statements, said that “He has a desire to come back to the Premier League at some point.”
Coutinho’s departure at Liverpool has been the genesis of his chronic problems. The Brazilian wanted his big-money move, even if manager Jurgen Klopp and the Liverpool hierarchy tried to talk Coutinho out of a move to Catalonia. The Anfield outfit was on the cusp of greatness, they argued, but it was not enough to sway the Brazilian. In the end, his departure was a blessing in disguise for the Merseyside club. Liverpool banked in the region of $180m, reconfigured its midfield and competed for both domestic and continental glory.
For Coutinho, the temptation of playing for FC Barcelona and following in the footsteps of Brazilian greats Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, and even Neymar was understandable. But both the player and club were guilty of an error of judgement. At Barcelona, he never became Andres Iniesta’s successor. It wasn’t a matter of competence, but Coutinho simply isn’t a genuine midfielder. Higher up the field, Ousmane Dembele fitted the team’s attacking trident with an ageing Luis Suarez better.
The Brazilian was also singled out after Barcelona’s dramatic 4-0 elimination in the Champions League at the hands of his former club. The result was a painful reminder for Coutinho of the greatness he could have achieved at Anfield Road. His relationship with the fans and media at a low, Barcelona loaned Coutinho to Bayern Munich at the start of this season.
But, even in Bavaria, Coutinho failed to ignite. Before the winter break, he starred with a hat-trick and two assists in a 6-1 humiliation of Werder Bremen, but that performance didn’t kickstart his season. In the Champions League, Coutinho was part of the support cast away to Chelsea, coming on as a substitute in the 66th minute as Serge Gnabry and Davies tore the English backline apart. There has been the occasional flash of genius, but not enough substance and consistency to warrant a first-team spot in the Munich team.
So, what is next for Coutinho? New Barcelona coach Quique Setien has reportedly included Coutinho in his future plans, and yet it seems too much of a U-turn for a club that isn’t very keen on keeping the Brazilian. Barcelona’s most expensive player in history has become a burden for the club. Yet, his exit could still serve the purpose of balancing the books for the Catalans, who are in desperate need of money.
Joorabchian’s remarks have fueled speculation that the Brazil international is seeking a return to the English topflight. Coutinho’s market value has dropped, but the coronavirus pandemic has also decimated the soccer industry’s revenue and clubs’ income. Clubs won’t be inclined to spend heavily on a player without long-term prospects. Simply put, Barcelona’s negotiating position is weak.
Coutinho needs stability and a club where he can flourish again. That may require him to scale back his ambitions, but it could be the only way to rejuvenate his playing career.