EPL

Coutinho leaves Barcelona: Villa land LaLiga misfit who was a star at Liverpool

By Sports Desk January 07, 2022

Philippe Coutinho and Steven Gerrard are back in tandem, nine years after they first began to forge an alliance at Liverpool.

Gerrard referred to Coutinho as a friend this week, but he is also set to be his boss at Aston Villa after the Brazilian agreed to join from Barcelona.

The theory is that if anyone can get a tune out of Coutinho, it should be his former Liverpool captain, given the strong relationship they had on the pitch, which has endured in the years since.

Barcelona hoped Coutinho would be a leader in their orchestra, but instead his displays often struck a bum note, and the Blaugrana are happy to have offloaded one of the most expensive signings in their history.

Exactly how much they have ended up paying Liverpool for Coutinho is unclear, given the various clauses that were in the January 2018 deal, but he cost the Catalans giants well over £100million, and the return on that investment was far from what was expected.

In LaLiga, he played 76 times, starting 51 games, and managed 17 goals and nine assists. Overall, he had 26 goals and 13 assists in 106 games.

Gerrard will be hoping the 29-year-old Coutinho can sprinkle some magic at Villa, having already shown his qualities in the Premier League.

After a slow start at Liverpool, his performances came on leaps and bounds; across his final two and a half seasons with the Reds, Coutinho managed 38 goals and 24 assists in 99 matches.

In this World Cup year, Coutinho will want to be playing regularly. Such a prospect was off the table at Barcelona, where planning for the long-term future is the order of the day, along with hacking down the wage bill.

Coutinho made an encouraging start at Barcelona, and across all competitions he managed 10 goals and six assists in just 22 games across his first half-season with the Blaugrana.

In 2018-19, he played 54 times and finished with 11 goals and five assists, with his productivity already in decline. From an average of 0.97 goal involvements (goals and assists) per 90 minutes in that honeymoon period after first arriving from Liverpool, his contribution shrank to 0.43 involvements per 90 in his first full season.

In an all-conquering Bayern side, that bounced back up to 0.84 goal involvements per 90 minutes in the 2019-20 campaign, but Coutinho could not crack on at that pace once back at Camp Nou.

Last term, as he made just fitful contributions, his involvements averaged out at 0.57 per 90, and this season's rate was just 0.3 as his inevitable exit approached.

In his final half-season at Anfield, the former Inter winger was contributing 1.2 goal involvements per game as his Reds form peaked.

Across his Reds career, Coutinho scored 19 Premier League goals from outside the penalty area, Opta said. Only Gerrard has scored more for the club from outside the box (33).

Since returning to Barcelona from Bayern, Barcelona have tended to do better when Coutinho has played no part in games.

When he has been involved, either as a starter or substitute, they have won just nine of 24 LaLiga games for a 37.5 per cent success rate, averaging 1.4 points and 1.5 goals.

But without him they have won 23 of 33 (69.7 per cent) in LaLiga, losing only three times, averaging 2.3 points and 2.4 goals per game.

It is little wonder he has played just 26 per cent of minutes across all competitions for Barcelona this season. Injuries have blighted his Barcelona career, and if this is the end, with a loan potentially leading to a sale, then all parties will be happy to move on.

Villa are signing a special player, one that Gerrard still likes to tag as a "magician", but also a footballer who perhaps needs a reminder of those old tricks in his repertoire.

If Gerrard can bring back that spark, that trickery with end results, Villa will be all the better for it.

Related items

  • Reported Arsenal and Liverpool target Yeremi Pino could be sold by Villarreal, Emery admits Reported Arsenal and Liverpool target Yeremi Pino could be sold by Villarreal, Emery admits

    Villarreal boss Unai Emery has acknowledged the Yellow Submarine may be forced to sell young winger Yeremi Pino, amid reports linking him with a move to Arsenal.

    The Gunners have reportedly been in the market for another versatile attacker since top target Raphinha opted to join Barcelona earlier in the transfer window, while the Spanish press has also touted Liverpool as potential suitors for Yeremi.

    The 19-year-old played a key role as Villarreal made the Champions League semi-finals last season, making 40 appearances for Emery's team in all competitions.

    Yeremi recorded seven goals and four assists in a strong campaign, also creating 32 chances for LaLiga's seventh-placed finishers.

    But Emery told reporters on Friday the club may be powerless to keep him in the face of Premier League interest, acknowledging: "If an offer arrives for players like Yeremi Pino, then he will have to leave.

    "We have a responsibility with the club. It is what it is."

    Villarreal go to Real Valladolid for their first outing of the 2022-23 LaLiga season on Saturday.

  • Arsenal and Liverpool target Yeremi Pino could be sold by Villarreal, Emery admits Arsenal and Liverpool target Yeremi Pino could be sold by Villarreal, Emery admits

    Villarreal boss Unai Emery has acknowledged the Yellow Submarine may be forced to sell young winger Yeremi Pino, amid reports linking him with a move to Arsenal.

    The Gunners have reportedly been in the market for another versatile attacker since top target Raphinha opted to join Barcelona earlier in the transfer window, while the Spanish press has also touted Liverpool as potential suitors for Yeremi.

    The 19-year-old played a key role as Villarreal made the Champions League semi-finals last season, making 40 appearances for Emery's team in all competitions.

    Yeremi recorded seven goals and four assists in a strong campaign, also creating 32 chances for LaLiga's seventh-placed finishers.

    But Emery told reporters on Friday the club may be powerless to keep him in the face of Premier League interest, acknowledging: "If an offer arrives for players like Yeremi Pino, then he will have to leave.

    "We have a responsibility with the club. It is what it is."

    Villarreal go to Real Valladolid for their first outing of the 2022-23 LaLiga season on Saturday.

  • 'Anything can happen' – Xavi not ruling out De Jong and Aubameyang Barca exits 'Anything can happen' – Xavi not ruling out De Jong and Aubameyang Barca exits

    Barcelona coach Xavi refused to rule out exits for Frenkie de Jong and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the eve of their LaLiga opener, acknowledging "anything can happen".

    Manchester United's interest in De Jong has evolved into one of the longest-running sagas of the transfer window, while Chelsea are being strongly linked with both the Netherlands midfielder and Barca striker Aubameyang.

    Although Xavi and president Joan Laporta have expressed confidence Barca will overcome their financial woes to register a host of new acquisitions ahead of Saturday's fixture against Rayo Vallecano, they are trying to offload players and reduce the wage bill.

    While Xavi still considers both men key players, he made it clear they may depart before the transfer window closes.

    "From here until August 31 a lot can happen, but I like Aubameyang a lot," Xavi told a news conference on Friday.

    "He helped us a lot, he's an important player for me, he arrived here with a lot of humility, a good work ethic, so we'll see what happens."

    On De Jong's future, the Blaugrana boss added: "It's the same as Aubameyang, he's an important player and he's part of the squad. 

    "If I can use him, great. From now until the 31st we will see what possibilities there are and where we are with regards to our participation in the market. 

    "From now until August 31, anything can happen with Frenkie and with any players in the squad."

    Reports have suggested tensions are high between De Jong and the club after he appeared to be jeered by a group of supporters while arriving at training earlier this week.

    But Xavi denies there is any ill-feeling towards De Jong, who joined from Ajax for a reported fee of €75million in 2019.

    "I didn't hear whistles, I heard applause," Xavi claimed. "People are able to express how and when they want, I'm here to try to improve the squad and make a cohesive unit. 

    "It depends on how you perform on the pitch whether they support you or whistle. I think Frenkie can help the squad very well, he's helped the club also and I have no complaints."

    One player who is set to leave Barcelona is young midfielder Nico Gonzalez, who declared on Wednesday he would be joining Valencia on a season-long loan.

    Nico made 37 appearances for Barca last season – although only 17 were starts – and Xavi revealed the 20-year-old asked to leave.

    "He came to me three weeks ago. I insisted that he continue because he would have minutes. I like Nico," Xavi said. "But a few days ago, he came back and told me that there was a team where he would play. 

    "He has been brave and is going to Valencia. I hope he comes back more mature because it will be important for the future of Barca. 

    "For the midfield we have Busquets, [Miralem] Pjanic, [Franck] Kessie, Frenkie, Sergi Roberto, and even [Andreas] Christensen who can play there."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.