Liverpool and Philippe Coutinho: What Now?

PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL - AUGUST 30: Philippe Coutinho takes part in a training session at the Arena do Gremio on August 30, 2017 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, ahead of their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier match against Ecuador on August 31. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

 

Over the course of the summer, Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho was brought into the main spotlight of the football world. The story of his unfulfilled desire to play for the Barcelona has been told and retold so many times these past few months that it has become very hard to keep track of all that’s been said, written or done, let alone ponder the truth of it all.

Liverpool and Philippe Coutinho: What Now?

Having become extremely important for Jürgen Klopp’s team, Coutinho signed a new five-year contract with the Reds only in January, a contract not containing a release-clause. He had been injured for a while prior to putting pen to paper, but as soon as he was back in the team he happily pledged his future to the club.

“I signed this new contract to stay here for a few more years because it’s a great honour for me,” said Coutinho back then.

“It gives me great happiness because I was welcomed here with open arms by everyone at the club and the supporters right from my first day. I am very thankful to this football club for everything.”

Fast forward seven months, and things couldn’t have become more different. On August 11th, the popular “Little Magician” handed in a transfer request following strong interest from Barcelona, and broke the bonds of trust towards his club, manager and fans. He spent the last few weeks of the transfer window shrouded in uncertainty in regards to his immediate future, and despite Liverpool’s rock-hard statement about the matter, Barcelona and the media kept adding fuel to the fire with insinuations of the Brazilian’s move being imminent.

In the end, several big-money offers from the Catalans were rebuffed by Liverpool, and Coutinho still remains at the club. He is yet to feature for his club this season, however, due to an alleged back injury. That injury did not stop him from putting in very good performances for Brazil during the first international break of the campaign and scoring against Ecuador on the final day of the transfer window.

This development obviously opens the question of how far the process of burning the bridges between the player and the club has come. All parties involved will now think hard about the problem that is before them.

Barcelona obviously still haven’t given up on their intention to sign the Brazilian as soon as possible. Catalan paper “Sport”, in accordance with their self-definition as the newspaper of the supporters of FC Barcelona, have started a rumour that Coutinho plans to refuse playing in the Champions League group stages in order to be eligible to play for Barcelona in the later stages of the competition this season.

As much as this potentially bold and spiteful move would seem like another bridge burnt, a prospect probably welcome by both Barcelona and Coutinho himself, they need to keep in mind that Liverpool still hold onto the player. Angering the Merseyside club further in this manner would do nothing to improve the chances of a transfer happening in January.

There is only one path now for the Brazilian to take, at least for this season, in order to get his career back on the upward track. He needs to get back to Liverpool’s training facilities at Melwood and start working very hard. This will convince his manager that he can still give a lot to the team, and that leaving him out of it wouldn’t make much sense, whatever grievances lie between them.

The game against Manchester City at the Etihad on September 9th will be the perfect opportunity to show his lingering allegiance to Liverpool and start shining again. He only needs to make sure he’s given a chance; his undisputed quality will do the rest.

What happens next summer, remains to be seen. There are implications that the current situation is a result of a personal stand-off between the general manager of the Catalan club, Pep Segura, and Liverpool’s principal owner John W. Henry. If that is indeed the case, it may well be that Coutinho never gets his dream move as long as his contract lasts.

On the other hand, common business sense might prevail eventually. The acquisitions of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal and RB Leipzig star Naby Keita, who will officially become a Liverpool player next summer, as well as strong interest in Monaco’s Thomas Lemar, indicate that Liverpool just might be in the process of planning the future without their talisman.

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