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Philippe Coutinho is proof you need more than just talent to play for Barcelona

Some players are Barcelona.

And some aren’t.

After a year and a half, it seems Philippe Coutinho falls into the latter category.

Tough to take

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Tough to take

In January 2018, the Catalan giants signed the Brazilian from Liverpool for £142million.

He was given allowance in his first half-season for moments where he seemed unable to tune in to Barca’s frequency.

Though credit where he’s due, Coutinho performed very well in 2017/18, scoring ten goals in 22 games.

He scored a hat-trick away to Levante in the infamous 5-4 defeat that scuppered Barca’s hopes of an unbeaten season in their penultimate La Liga fixture.

Having made good use of his half-season free hit, and afforded a full pre-season, Coutinho was expected to justify his price tag in 2018/19.

Is his Barca career going up in smoke?

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Is his Barca career going up in smoke?

But despite featuring in 54 games – more than any other Barcelona player last season – not only did the 27-year-old not acclimatised to the Barca way, he got more and more lost as the campaign progressed.

A square peg in a circular hole, Coutinho was often forced to play from the left but without the freedom (or confidence) to drift central and dictate the game as he did so effectively at Anfield.

The reason for his inability to properly gel with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and co is something of a mystery.

He is technically capable and physically sound having played under Jurgen Klopp previously.

So what happened?

Limited cohesion

EPA
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Limited cohesion

When the transfer was confirmed, many thought Coutinho’s greatest strength (long-range shooting) would add another string to Barcelona’s bow.

Aside from Messi’s obscene free-kick record, the La Liga champions score very few goals from 22+ yards.

The Brazilian’s striking from distance was supposed to stop Barca overplaying and enable them to punish teams who camp on the edge of their box.

Coutinho has delighted the Nou Camp with some trademark long-range strikes, but not enough to detract from his questionable decision-making and occasional slowness in transition.

The fans turned on him with swift savagery, both online and those at games.

The transfer hasn’t gone as well as he would have hoped

EPA
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The transfer hasn’t gone as well as he would have hoped

Where his style was supposed to broaden Barca’s attacking arsenal, it has actually jarred with the dominant philosophy in which the club believe wholeheartedly.

Despite being a player of undoubted talent at a prime age, 18 months’ of evidence suggests Coutinho just doesn’t have that Barcelona soul.

Bayern Munich are set to offer him an escape via a loan deal with a reported option-to-buy north of €100m.

If Coutinho can regain his confidence, there’s no reason he can’t be a success in Germany.

Barca DNA

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Barca DNA

For Barcelona, it’s a warning of how specialised their recruitment needs to be.

And perhaps they have learned the lesson already.

Frenkie de Jong appears to be the archetypal Barca player, while Antoine Griezmann fits the profile of a forward Messi enjoys to have close to him.

Mind you, that’s what many thought about Coutinho…


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