Chelsea are one of a handful of clubs to be offered Philippe Coutinho by Barcelona, after it has become increasingly clear that Bayern Munich are unwilling to sign him on a permanent basis, Wessex Scene understands.
Fans of English football remember the Brazilian playmaker from his five-year stint at Liverpool, which culminated in his club-record transfer-fee of £145 million to FC Barcelona in 2018 – a figure that continues to be a club record to date. Coutinho’s form has since declined in both Spain and Germany. Whilst the 27-year-old has 13 goals and 14 assists in 52 games at Barcelona, he has failed to consistently produce enough to fill the ‘vacuum’ on the left-wing created by the departure of Neymar for PSG, and fend off competition from Ousmane Dembele, a more natural winger. Coutinho has struggled since sustaining an injury in a Champions League group stage match against Inter Milan last November, and this led the then Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde to state his uncertainity about Coutinho’s role in his system. Former Barcelona Sporting Director Robert Fernandez posited that Coutinho was “the ideal substitute for Iniesta”; this was an association that not only heaped pressure on Coutinho, but was also not strictly true. As Liverpool fans can testify, Philippe Coutinho is an out and out footballing playmaker – ‘a luxury player – who can pick out killer passes. With these harsh truths in mind, Fernandez’s assertion is misleading, and Valverde remains accurate in that there is no clear fit for the Brazilian in Barcelona’s system. Consider these factors – along with the fact that Dembele, Arthur and Arturo Vidal are excelling – then it comes as no surprise that Coutinho was loaned out to Bayern Munich.
The Brazilian arrived in Munich having spearheaded Brazil’s triumph in 2019 Copa America on home soil, with the prospect of the midfielder rediscovering his best form appearing viable. However, Coutinho only secured 8 goals and 8 assists for the German giants, and despite a change of manager, he was still unable to find his identity under Hansi Flick. While there is little doubt that the Brazilian is a talented footballer – evident in his 41 goals and 35 assists for Liverpool – Brazilian journalist Natalie Gedra claims that Coutinho has “lacked a good positive mentality” after his dip in form, which explains why he has failed to consistently perform since. Such a quality is one that any footballer playing for either of these elite clubs simply cannot afford.
So what could he offer Chelsea; is it worth snapping up him?
While it is clear that Coutinho is not a natural winger, his statistics from spell in the Bundesliga reflect that he is most effective when drifting in from the left wing. Chelsea have already signed winger Hakim Ziyech from Ajax for next season; though he traditionally plays on the right wing. This means that some form of a void still resides on the left of Chelsea’s commonly used 4-2-3-1 formation under Frank Lampard, after the departure of Eden Hazard last summer. While Chelsea do have left-winger in the form of Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson Odoi, both have failed to consolidate the position for themselves due to age, injury and inconsistent form: both have two and four assists from sixteen and seventeen Premier League games respectably. Further, with the unforetold consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic to Chelsea’s spending power, the Blues will be eager to bring in a player of Coutinho’s quality and versatility, especially in light of their transfer ban last summer.
Whether Chelsea bring the Brazilian back to the Premier League, Coutinho certainly needs to work harder on the pitch. He’s not the same player nor in the same position he was in when he left Liverpool aged 25. His career is at risk of further decline, and he’s the only one who can stop it. If he is able to adapt and apply himself, there is little doubt that Coutinho would be a shrewd recruit for the West London club. Such an eventuality is one that Liverpool fans hope never materialises.