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Maybe, just maybe, Barcelona are actually the problem

Barcelona is Lionel Messi’s realm.

Every transfer window the Catalans partner the great man with more world class talent, an attempt to share out the attacking burden.

But every season at the Camp Nou is like Groundhog Day.


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A move that fell apart

Getty - Contributor
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A move that fell apart

New signings come in, fail to settle, lose their midas touch before Messi ultimately, almost single-handedly, saves the day.

See Philippe Coutinho, for instance.

Coutinho remains Barca’s record signing, pinched from Liverpool when he was arguably the Premier League’s most prized asset.

18 months on and the little magician was a shadow of his former self, his confidence shot to bits.

Too many chefs

Reuters
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Too many chefs

The Barca ‘faithful’ took a leaf straight out of Real Madrid fans’ books and roundly castigated Coutinho, boos greeting his every appearance with their patience wearing thin.

Everything he had achieved with Liverpool and Brazil was swiftly forgotten, consigned to the history books.

This was supposedly Coutinho finished and he only had himself to blame.

It’s taken him just 327 minutes of action in a Bayern Munich shirt to well and truly put that theory to bed.

Catch him if you can

AP:Associated Press
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Catch him if you can

Coutinho is the ultimate confidence player and he has well and truly rediscovered his mojo in Bavaria.

Stellar performances against Koln and Paderborn were just an appetiser of what was to come; a main course of torturing Spurs in their own backyard.

This was the 27-year-old at the peak of his powers again.

Impudent and delicate, yet supplying a cutting edge in the final third that Barcelona, for one reason or another, didn’t allow him.

Showing Christian how it’s done

AP:Associated Press
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Showing Christian how it’s done

Bayern were a fading force in Europe, but Coutinho offers the perfect attacking blend to restore their balance.

When in the groove the Samba star is the ideal supply line behind an attacking trio, a counter to those that claim traditional number 10s are a dying breed.

And that was his dilemma at Barca.

Coutinho needs to be the fulcrum, the brains of the organisation.

The mojo is back

AFP or licensors
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The mojo is back

But with Messi around he was always likely to play understudy, stuck out wide to accommodate the King of Catalonia.

Things started to unravel fast at the Camp Nou but Coutinho never received the arm round the shoulder required.

The magic never fully disappeared, it was just subdued because he was a comparatively smaller fish with a great white shark for company.

Coutinho will flourish in Germany and already looks to have reinvigorated Bayern.

Meanwhile Barca, despite finally signing Antoine Griezmann this summer, look like they are falling into their same customary cycle.

What Barca does to you

EPA
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What Barca does to you

With Messi hampered by various injuries they have unconvincingly limped on in his absence.

He will return and inevitably salvage their season, but the Messi tunnel vision model is unsustainable as he shows more and more signs of mortality.

If you’re name isn’t Messi you’re swiftly dismissed and that has been their culture for years.

It wasn’t Coutinho who was the problem, it was Barca.

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