EPL

Coutinho leaves Barcelona: Villa land LaLiga misfit who was a star at Liverpool

By Sports Desk January 07, 2022

Philippe Coutinho and Steven Gerrard are back in tandem, nine years after they first began to forge an alliance at Liverpool.

Gerrard referred to Coutinho as a friend this week, but he is also set to be his boss at Aston Villa after the Brazilian agreed to join from Barcelona.

The theory is that if anyone can get a tune out of Coutinho, it should be his former Liverpool captain, given the strong relationship they had on the pitch, which has endured in the years since.

Barcelona hoped Coutinho would be a leader in their orchestra, but instead his displays often struck a bum note, and the Blaugrana are happy to have offloaded one of the most expensive signings in their history.

Exactly how much they have ended up paying Liverpool for Coutinho is unclear, given the various clauses that were in the January 2018 deal, but he cost the Catalans giants well over £100million, and the return on that investment was far from what was expected.

In LaLiga, he played 76 times, starting 51 games, and managed 17 goals and nine assists. Overall, he had 26 goals and 13 assists in 106 games.

Gerrard will be hoping the 29-year-old Coutinho can sprinkle some magic at Villa, having already shown his qualities in the Premier League.

After a slow start at Liverpool, his performances came on leaps and bounds; across his final two and a half seasons with the Reds, Coutinho managed 38 goals and 24 assists in 99 matches.

In this World Cup year, Coutinho will want to be playing regularly. Such a prospect was off the table at Barcelona, where planning for the long-term future is the order of the day, along with hacking down the wage bill.

Coutinho made an encouraging start at Barcelona, and across all competitions he managed 10 goals and six assists in just 22 games across his first half-season with the Blaugrana.

In 2018-19, he played 54 times and finished with 11 goals and five assists, with his productivity already in decline. From an average of 0.97 goal involvements (goals and assists) per 90 minutes in that honeymoon period after first arriving from Liverpool, his contribution shrank to 0.43 involvements per 90 in his first full season.

In an all-conquering Bayern side, that bounced back up to 0.84 goal involvements per 90 minutes in the 2019-20 campaign, but Coutinho could not crack on at that pace once back at Camp Nou.

Last term, as he made just fitful contributions, his involvements averaged out at 0.57 per 90, and this season's rate was just 0.3 as his inevitable exit approached.

In his final half-season at Anfield, the former Inter winger was contributing 1.2 goal involvements per game as his Reds form peaked.

Across his Reds career, Coutinho scored 19 Premier League goals from outside the penalty area, Opta said. Only Gerrard has scored more for the club from outside the box (33).

Since returning to Barcelona from Bayern, Barcelona have tended to do better when Coutinho has played no part in games.

When he has been involved, either as a starter or substitute, they have won just nine of 24 LaLiga games for a 37.5 per cent success rate, averaging 1.4 points and 1.5 goals.

But without him they have won 23 of 33 (69.7 per cent) in LaLiga, losing only three times, averaging 2.3 points and 2.4 goals per game.

It is little wonder he has played just 26 per cent of minutes across all competitions for Barcelona this season. Injuries have blighted his Barcelona career, and if this is the end, with a loan potentially leading to a sale, then all parties will be happy to move on.

Villa are signing a special player, one that Gerrard still likes to tag as a "magician", but also a footballer who perhaps needs a reminder of those old tricks in his repertoire.

If Gerrard can bring back that spark, that trickery with end results, Villa will be all the better for it.

Related items

  • Atalanta complete permanent De Ketelaere signing from Milan Atalanta complete permanent De Ketelaere signing from Milan

    Charles De Ketelaere has completed his move from Milan to Atalanta after the Europa League champions signed the Belgian on a permanent deal.

    Atalanta confirmed the transfer on Saturday after activating a buy option included in the 23-year-old's loan deal, with De Ketelaere joining in a reported move worth up to €24million.

    De Ketelaere failed to impress in his debut season in Italy after joining the Rossoneri from Club Brugge, but found form after a season-long loan deal to Bergamo in the 2023-24 campaign.

    The forward helped Gian Piero Gasperini's side to a top-four finish in Serie A, as well as lifting the Europa League trophy for Atalanta's first-ever success on the European stage.

    Only Ademola Lookman and Gianluca Scamacca (both 26) provided more direct goal contributions across all competitions than De Ketelaere's 25 last term.

    Gasperini unlocked a side to the former Milan man that the Rossoneri failed to find, too, with De Ketelaere creating more open-play chances (78) than any other team-mate across all competitions.

    That form has brought a permanent reward for De Ketelaere, who is preparing for Euro 2024 with Belgium in Germany, where the Red Devils will face Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine in Group E.

  • Ronaldo insists Portugal 'deserve to win' Euro 2024 Ronaldo insists Portugal 'deserve to win' Euro 2024

    Cristiano Ronaldo says Portugal "deserve to win" Euro 2024, as the skipper issued a rallying cry to the 2016 champions.

    Roberto Martinez's side are among the favourites to go all the way in Germany, where they begin their campaign against Czechia on Tuesday, before facing Turkiye and debutants Georgia in Group F.

    Portugal were the only nation in qualifying to progress with a 100 per cent record as they won all 10 of their matches, scoring 36 goals and conceding just two, though their impressive form stalled with defeats against Croatia and Slovenia in recent friendlies.

    Ronaldo, who netted 10 times in qualifying, is set to become the first player to feature in six editions of the European Championship, in which he already holds the record for most appearances (25) and goals (14).

    The 39-year-old is joined by the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix, Rafael Leao and Goncalo Ramos in a star-studded squad he feels are more than capable of going all the way and landing a second European crown.

    "I believe that this generation deserves to win a competition of this magnitude," said Ronaldo, who captained Portugal to glory eight years ago. "Semi-finals? I hope we can go further.

    "We have to go step by step, live in the moment, be calm, work as well as we have until now, believe that it is possible. We know it's a short competition, but the team is ready.

    "It's getting off to a good start, which is essential. I feel ready, I've prepared myself for this competition.

    "It's my sixth European Championship, it's about enjoying it in the best possible way, playing well and making sure the team can win."

  • Afghanistan advance to Super 8s and seal New Zealand elimination Afghanistan advance to Super 8s and seal New Zealand elimination

    Afghanistan booked their place in the T20 World Cup Super 8s with a seven-wicket victory over Papua New Guinea, while eliminating New Zealand from the competition.

    Rashid Khan's side claimed a third successive win to maintain their perfect start in Group C, which they top ahead of co-hosts West Indies with a superior net run-rate.

    Afghanistan chose to bowl and made a fast start in San Fernando, dismissing captain Assad Vala, Lega Siaka and Sese Bau within four balls to leave the Barramundis at 12-3 early in the third over.

    Wicketkeeper Kiplin Doriga top-scored with 27, before they were bowled out for 95.

    Their opponents were also steady out of the blocks, having been reduced to 22-2 inside the third over.

    However, Gulbadin Naib's unbeaten 49 from 36 balls - featuring four fours and two sixes - steadied the ship, while his unbroken stand of 46 with Mohammed Nabi helped get Afghanistan comfortably over the line.

    Data Debrief: Farooqi leads the charge to condemn Black Caps to early exit

    Fazalhaq Farooqi (3-16) led from Afghanistan's field again, with the tournament's leading wicket taker increasing his tally to 12 from three innings.

    The side note to their victory was the sealing of New Zealand's fate with a match to spare.

    Runners-up in 2021 and semi-finalists in the last three tournaments, it is the first time the Black Caps have failed to advance beyond the first group stage at the T20 World Cup.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.