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

  • Emiliano Martinez banned for first leg of Villa’s semi-final against Olympiacos Emiliano Martinez banned for first leg of Villa’s semi-final against Olympiacos

    Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez will miss the Europa Conference League semi-final first leg against Olympiacos.

    The Argentina international saved two penalties in the 4-3 quarter-final shootout victory over Lille, but earned a yellow card for his trademark gamesmanship and baiting the home crowd.

    That was his second of the game, but he was not sent off as cards are not carried over into the shootout.

    However, after also picking up a booking in the first leg against Lille, he will now miss the semi-final first leg with the Greek side on May 2 for three yellows on the totting-up process.

    The World Cup winner, who produced heroics against France in the 2022 final in Qatar, will be a big miss, with Unai Emery calling him the best goalkeeper in the world.

    “To say something about this is when he’s being successful individually and collectively with his club here at Aston Villa and his national team,” boss Unai Emery said.

    “He’s being successful with Argentina, he’s being successful and progressively getting better here with Aston Villa.

    “And individually he’s being successful because he’s saving a lot of matches as a goalkeeper.

    “Of course, he’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world – the first, the second, the third.

    “For me, the best.”

    Villa will have a quick turnaround after playing 120 minutes in northern France on Thursday, with Bournemouth’s visit to Villa Park on Sunday.

    Emery will assess his side after Saturday’s training session to see how they recover, with Nicolo Zaniolo going off injured in the first half against Lille.

    Alex Moreno, Emiliano Buendia, Jacob Ramsey, Tyrone Mings and Boubacar Kamara are definitely out.

    “Alex Moreno, Mings, Buendia, Ramsey are still unavailable,” Emery added. “I think no more. After the match we played yesterday, we will have to wait and then decide.”

  • Philippe Clement urges Rangers to embrace intense environment of run-in Philippe Clement urges Rangers to embrace intense environment of run-in

    Philippe Clement has told his off-form Rangers players they must embrace an intense environment where results dictate whether they go to “heaven or hell”.

    The Gers were widely lauded after a consistent run of form that saw them wipe out Celtic’s eight-point advantage at the top of the cinch Premiership to briefly take over at the summit in February.

    However, they go into this Sunday’s Scottish Gas Scottish Cup semi-final against on-song Hearts having been ferociously criticised after slip-ups away to Ross County and Dundee over the past week left them with just two wins from their last eight games in all competitions and their title hopes hanging by a thread.

    “If you win 10 games in a row, you have more belief than when you lose two times but this is Rangers, this is a club where you always have to fight,” said Clement.

    “Every point you lose, it’s like you’re going to hell. That’s this world, and that’s good. That’s also the challenge and it’s interesting to see which players can live in that way.

    “But it’s an exciting place to be because on the other side you can go also to heaven when you win games and when you win trophies.

    “In other teams, where it’s not so important to win points or when it’s not something dramatic when you lose points, you cannot go to heaven also because those are not the clubs that win trophies. This is something you need to embrace.”

    Clement insists he is comfortable with the intense scrutiny and criticism he has faced amid Rangers’ recent “bumps in the road”.

    “I know it’s part of the job,” he said. “I’ve been now more than 30 years in this world and I’ve been buried a lot of times as a player and as a manager, so I know what I’m doing in a club. I know what I’m doing in this club. I know we are on the right road together.”

    Clement described the demands of being in charge of Rangers as similar to managing former club Brugge in his homeland.

    “Winning, becoming champion, is the only thing that counts,” he said. “But I’ve been like that all my life. There is nobody who can be more critical than me because I want to win everything.

    “Everybody who knows me from when I was a child, whether it was basketball, tennis or table tennis or whatever sport, I want to win. I made a lot of fights with my wife about that, that I wanted that mentality with my children because I did it with them also.

    “If I played a game with them and they were three years old, I wanted to win. That is the mentality that is necessary in a club like this, but you need to embrace that.

    “It’s also because of that that you can be successful and you can win trophies and have these exciting moments that will stay with you for the rest of your life. That is what Rangers is about and that’s why I love to be here.”

    Clement galvanised Rangers earlier in the season after replacing Michael Beale in October.

    Asked what he would say to supporters who fear the resurgence is fizzling out, the Belgian said: “The same thing I said in October. I think this team since October did improve in results, in attitude and resilience, and in six months they proved it several times.

    “So it’s there, they can do it. They’ve shown it several times with quality. That’s what they need to do again. So, yes, my belief is there 200 per cent.”

  • Hamstring operation puts Nathan Patterson’s Euro 2024 hopes in doubt Hamstring operation puts Nathan Patterson’s Euro 2024 hopes in doubt

    Nathan Patterson’s Euro 2024 hopes have suffered a major blow after the Scotland and Everton right-back was told he needs an operation.

    Patterson has been ruled out for the rest of the domestic season after suffering a hamstring injury against Chelsea on Monday.

    The news will be a serious concern for Scotland head coach Steve Clarke, who also has a major doubt over Brentford right-back Aaron Hickey’s fitness.

    Everton manager Sean Dyche said: “Patto will be out for the season, he will need surgery. It’s a very unfortunate injury. We’re disappointed in that one, for him as much as us as well.

    “It’s a shame for Patto, he came on and looked sharp the other night, he’s been training really well, just getting back to where I think he can be – because I think he’s a very good player – and he’s very unfortunate with a really awkward fall.

    “He won’t make another game this season, I’m sure.”

    When asked about Patterson’s hopes of playing in the European Championship, Dyche said: “I don’t know on the medical side of the times other than this season, as in playing for us.

    “But he will have surgery, so we hope that goes well and then it’s how quickly it settles, I’m sure.”

    Hickey has not played since October – he also suffered a hamstring injury at Stamford Bridge – and is unlikely to play for Brentford again this season, but has not given up hope of making the Euros.

    Celtic right-back Anthony Ralston has been in recent squads while versatile Bristol City player Ross McCrorie, who has featured at right-back in his career, was also a late call-up recently.

    Clarke suffered a major blow earlier in the week when it was revealed that in-form Bologna midfielder Lewis Ferguson had suffered cruciate ligament damage, ruling him out of the summer tournament in Germany.

    There was better news for Clarke from Norwich this week when it was revealed Grant Hanley is expected to return to training next week.

    The defender pulled out of the Scotland squad for recent friendlies against Netherlands and Northern Ireland after suffering a setback following his recent return from a long-term Achilles injury.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.