No matter how much money we have and how successful we are, everybody dreams bigger than where they are. The Little Magician, as Liverpool fans call Philippe Coutinho, started his career in European football, in Milano, playing for the Internazionale. He initially struggled to establish himself as a regular starter at Inter, and the Italian club loaned him to Espanyol.
The young Brazilian enjoyed a successful spell in Catalonia. He gained experience in La Liga and will have found out what Barcelona FC means to the Catalans. Barcelona is more than a club to them, it is part of their identity.
Built on Johan Cruyff’s playing philosophy since 1988 and supported by rich sponsors like Qatar Foundation (since 2010), Barcelona have become a global footballing authority. Before the 90’s and Cruyff’s appointment at Camp Nou (with all the respect to the Catalan club and its fans, as they went through difficult times in the past), Barca have become one of the biggest clubs in Spain. They had won 10 La Liga titles in their history before Cruyff’s arrival. As of 1989, Barca were a football dwarf compared to clubs like Real Madrid, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, AC or Inter Milan.
Johan Cruyff changed Barca’s fortunes though, and built the foundations for their future dominance in Spain, and subsequently in the Champions League.
What does this have to do with Philippe Coutinho though? Players like the Brazilian have grown up in this post-Cruyff Barcelona, and they don’t remember the pre-1990 version. Those players have been watching Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi since 2005.
Whatever anyone can say about the previous generations of Barcelona players (including the team led by Stoychkov, Romario and Michael Laudrup that won Barca’s first ever European Cup in 1992), the Catalan club has conquered the world after 2005, when Messi was introduced to the first team. This is the Barcelona team that players like Coutinho are familiar with – one that won five Champions League titles between 2005 and 2017. This version of Barcelona is built around Messi’s footballing genius.
In a year or two, Coutinho will be happy that Liverpool refused to sell him
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool seem very close to achieving something, be that a trophy or climbing further up the table. With some defensive reinforcements and a bit of a luck, the Reds can win the Premier League title this or next season. They have also returned to the Champions League, a tournament in which they have been very successful.
I understand what Liverpool means. We can say Dalglish, Rush, Hansen, Souness, Suarez, Gerrard. I’ve been here quite a few years already, it’s not like I am new. I understand. China, no. I am not interested. I don’t think about that, not for one moment. My football is here. My heart is here. I don’t think about any other club. Not at all. To have signed a new contract at this club, my goal is to be thought of one day in the same way as these players. They are legends. You define the success of a player by his loyalty or his titles. Or both. In order to be part of this group, I have so much to do.
Those above are Philippe Coutinho’s words. Few months ago, he has said that he wanted to become a Liverpool football club legend, like Kenny Dalglish, rather than moving to Spain and being just another player at Barcelona or Madrid. Few months later, in August, he has made a U-turn and submitted a transfer request. It wasn’t just a surprising move, but it was also a wrong one, as Liverpool haven’t been prepared to accept or discuss.
The Brazilian chose the worst possible moment to request a transfer, doing it just 24 hours before the start of the Premier League season. Regardless of the fact Liverpool seem unfazed on the pitch so far, his actions will have hurt them.Coutinho’s move has served the interests of Barcelona, not those of the club that currently pays his salary.
In any other business, any professional who behaved like that, would have been fired immediately. In football, things are different though. Now, with the transfer window closed, there is a huge amount of responsibility on Philippe Coutinho’s shoulders. From here, he must roll up his sleeves and remember that he is a Liverpool player until January at least. Indeed, playing well and keeping Reds in the hunt domestically and abroad would only enhance Barcelona’s lust for him.
In any other business, any other professional who behaved like that, would have been laid off immediately. In football, things work a little bit different, however. Now with the transfer window closed, there is a huge responsibility on Philippe Coutinho’s shoulders. His best move would be to analyze what happened and what the current situation is and to realize that he has behaved very immature and irresponsible this August.
How can Liverpool and Coutinho resolve the issue?
Coutinho is obviously fit and will be available for selection this weekend. The best thing Jurgen Klopp can do is to either start him in Liverpool’s away fixture against Manchester City or to put him on the bench and use him as a substitute.
If Coutinho plays against City and helps Liverpool to get a point or more, he will probably receive a standing ovation on his return to Anfield. In the space of a few weeks, his transfer saga will have been forgotten and he can go back to helping Liverpool in their hunt for trophies.
It is likely that at the same time, Coutinho’s agent will be having conversations with Liverpool’s owners regarding the possibility of the Brazilian joining Barcelona next season, should both parties still be interested in seeing him leave Anfield.
Liverpool FC showed character!
Liverpool’s fans should be very satisfied with the way the club’s American owners dealt with Barcelona’s summer endeavour. The owners displayed class and basically told Barcelona that their best players are not for sale.
The Brazilian has just signed a new five-year contract at Anfield and any serious club that works on a plan to win trophies will resist the urge to sell one of their best players to an international competitor. Therefore the Liverpool hierarchy deserves a lot of credit for being consistent in their efforts to keep Coutinho at Anfield.
Now it is Jurgen Klopp’s responsibility to galvanise Coutinho and to get the best of him. The German manager has been open enough and at the same time very diplomatic while dealing with Coutinho’s transfer saga.
Klopp has admitted it is a complicated case and then refused to be drawn into it by saying that it is his responsibility to deal with the players who are available and to work with the squad he has. Now, if Coutinho is available for selection, Klopp will give him the chance to rebuild his relationship with his teammates, the coaching staff and the fans.