By 90Min
September 30, 2019

Sometimes it's easier to criticise a player rather than praise them, simply because it's easier (and admittedly, funnier) to do so.

When Philippe Coutinho finally made his dream move to Barcelona in January 2018, there was an expectation that he'd take them up a level, while Liverpool would become worse, yet history panned out in reverse.

While Barca continue to chase shadows in Europe - ironically that of Liverpool's - the Reds have gone from strength to strength, replacing Coutinho's individual brilliance with a harder working midfield which allows the front three to flourish.

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Underwhelming seasons sandwiching a disappointing World Cup for Brazil have skewed the view of Coutinho, largely rendering his reputation back to a 'wasteful playmaker'. 


His departure from Liverpool, in hindsight, fits into Bill Simmons' Ewing Theory - the idea that a team gets inexplicably better after losing their star player despite being written off. Coutinho left for Barcelona in pursuit of the European Cup, but was beaten to that very thing by the team he departed.


Barca may have been the dream move for Coutinho, but in the midst of an identity crisis at the world's most footballing DNA-driven club, was it ever going to work out there? The short answer is no. 

It's easier to discredit Coutinho for why his time at Barca didn't work out than to pick apart the reasons for it. 

Revisionism is easy, remembering is harder.

It's easy to pretend that the midfielder wasn't becoming an all-round attacker from midfield - especially in a season where Mohamed Salah swept up individual titles for breaking the Premier League goal record. Coutinho was on the cusp of becoming a top ten player in the world.

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Fitting him into Klopp's current iteration of Liverpool required some shoehorning and a little less defence stability, but Coutinho would run the attack; he would be the creator, the playmaker, and one of their many goalscorers. 

He left the club having scored 12 goals in 20 games in the 2017/18 season, and filling the hole in his absence to prop up the attack was coaching masterclass from Jurgen Klopp, not a sign of Coutinho's deficiencies. While at Barcelona, things didn't work out because, well, they couldn't work out. His style of play, his natural instinct to go for goal as opposed to constantly pass the ball to Lionel Messi, was never going to go down well at Camp Nou.

So now at Bayern, surrounded by a top striker in Robert Lewandowski and emerging wide forwards in Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry, he has a real shot at redemption. 

Coutinho can catapult his way back onto the international stage with a big performance against one of his other suitors - Tottenham.

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Spurs were reportedly looking to complete a deal to sign Coutinho on loan this summer, but were unable to come to an agreement with Barcelona, and so was able to make the temporary switch to Bayern instead due to the European window being open longer.

Mauricio Pochettino looked keen to move Christian Eriksen on, with Coutinho and Juventus' Paulo Dybala seemingly his replacements. There are few players capable of competently carrying Eriksen's load, being able to run the attack and be the main creative spark. 

What the Dane lacks in explosiveness is made up with his efficiency and work rate, with Coutinho's abilities at a halfway house between the two and has a proven track record of playing for pressing sides. Pochettino brought Coutinho to Espanyol on loan during his spell as manager there, putting in impressive displays that eventually sealed his move to Liverpool. 

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At Tottenham, the confidence may have been there to produce those performances for a man he has a connection with. Instead, Pochettino and Coutinho will be on opposing sides this Tuesday.

Sure, he may shoot from 25 yards an awful lot ('Shootinho', if you will) but there is clear potential for Coutinho to work his way back into the world class discussion, particularly if he helps Niko Kovac and Bayern Munich put aside their European woes of recent years.

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