After a mega money £121 Million deal had took Coutinho from Anfield to The Nou Camp many expected him to take over the missing whole in which Neymar had left on the club. With 7 goals and 6 assists in 14 matches before making the January switch Coutinho was seen to be the shining light on a Liverpool team on the brink of greatness under Jurgen Klopp, so where did it all go wrong for the man named as a magician?
With a sensational Coutinho arriving and Barcelona disappointing the prior season, it seemed there was only going to be one outcome with this deal, and that would be one of success. And it was a promising start for Coutinho, who originally had found himself playing on either the left or the right of a front three in his first 6 months as a Barcelona player. In this time he matched the output he was showing with Liverpool with 13 goal involvements in 18 games making it 26 goal involvements in 32 games across his Premier League and La Liga seasons, world class numbers for someone who at the time seemed to have the world at his feet.
Coutinho after this brilliant season went on to the World Cup next where many people were tipping him to be one of the main reasons that Brazil would be able to seek success from the competition. And he certainly played his part, with 2 goals and 1 assist in the group stage and an assist as Belgium knocked the Brazilian outfit out it seemed Coutinho did all he could for his country. So what changed?
With another big name signing the same season Coutinho did in Ousmane Dembele it seemed nearly impossible that both would be able to fit into an already brilliant attack and it would be one or the other, sadly Coutinho would be the one to take the fall as he had to drop into a midfield 3 as he tried to begin him taking over the reign of Andreas Iniesta. And early stages of this were showing great signed for the Brazilian international who was able to pick up a goal and an assist from a number 8 role in his first 3 games, when all of a sudden things just seemed to change at Barcelona.
Despite his impressive start to the season including 3 goal involvements from his first 2 Champions league games he saw himself dropped for Sergio Roberto and Rafinha over the next two games. Whilst he then gained his starting place back and showed some decent form over the next 5/6 games a disappointing performance against Rayo Vallecano and Villarreal saw him dropped again with him struggling to make his Barcelona career work as a midfielder with the club clearly prioritizing the youth and good form of Dembele. With him often coming off of the bench through the winter period it was clear that Coutinho was struggling to impress through limited game time and it seemed to negatively effect the man once named as a magician.
After going 10 games without and goal contributions, and struggling against teams he used to run rings around the golden magic Coutinho seemed to produce seemed to fade away, and with his former side Liverpool looking likely to win their first league title in the Premier League era collecting 196 points over two seasons and getting to 2 champions league finals without the Brazilian each day it seemed more and more like the transfer was a mistake for both teams. After being arguably Barcelona's worst performer over two legs as the Spanish side crumbled in the Champions league against his former club it seemed like the final nail was in the coffin for Coutinho's Barcelona career.
A summer transfer later and Coutinho was joining Bayern Munich on loan with what was a fresh start for the former Liverpool star, and it was a very successful loan spell. He mustered up 11 goals and 9 assists for one if the most dominant sides we have seen in recent history as he won the treble with Bayern. However the stand out moment for Coutinho was against the club who spent £121 million for his services. With a 15 minute cameo in a game were Bayern defeated Barcelona 8-2 Coutinho managed 2 goals and 1 assist on route to the Champions League Final; with an outraged Barcelona fanbase seeing a current player for the club embarrass the club it left a bit of a sour taste on a highly successful loan move, the fanbase turned on Coutinho and the Brazilian had entered a lose lose situation. And with Bayern passing on the opportunity to make the loan deal permanent preferring a move for Leroy Sane Coutinho was trapped in a club where the fanbase wanted him sold in a club who no longer believed in him. His footballing career has hit rock bottom and with injury resulting in him only having 650 minutes in the next league season Coutinho seemed to have lost everything that had once made him a Magician and untouchable. He was now just a Fringe player in a team who want him to leave at all costs.
No matter what happened at Barcelona, no matter which manager came in he was never given the platform to succeed and was never used correctly. Now signing for Aston Villa Coutinho, seen as a model pro by manager Steven Gerrard seems hungrier then ever. Taking pay reductions, studying his teammates and stepping outside of his comfort zone in a team seen as a smaller fish in a big pond Coutinho seems like a beast roaring to be unleashed. And in an environment where he is going to be adored under a manager who knows how he plays and knows his best attributes. It seems like it could be a match made in heaven.
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