Monday, January 24

Why Philippe Coutinho’s move to Aston Villa makes sense: one last chance to be part of the Brazilian team for the 2022 World Cup

Aston Villa has agreed to sign Philippe Coutinho on loan from Barcelona with a summer option to permanently acquire the former Liverpool player as he prepares to reunite with his former teammate Steven Gerrard.

Pending a medical and work permit, the Brazilian international will watch the rest of the 2021-22 season at Villa Park as he seeks to rediscover a professional spark that was lost in Catalonia.

He previously starred on the Premier League stage for five years at Anfield, and he hopes to pick up where he left off. The 29-year-old first came to England in the 2013 winter window, when Liverpool pulled him away from Inter. Coutinho quickly settled on Merseyside and became a key creative cog for the Reds with Brendan Rodgers.

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Although major titles proved elusive, it was a productive season with the Reds: In total, Coutinho played 201 games for Liverpool and recorded 54 goals, while also proving to be a useful source of assists.

Those efforts earned many admiring glances from afar, and the opportunity to complete a dream trade to Barcelona came in January 2018. A $ 198 million transfer would materialize, but Coutinho struggled to maintain his high standards alongside Lionel Messi in the Camp Nou. And with the minor injuries that proved problematic during his time at the club, Barcelona are finally ready to cut their losses and move on.

Since then, several landing sites have been proposed to him and six Premier League teams are reported to have expressed interest. But he hopes that a once successful partnership with Gerrard on the field will bring him a turnaround in fortune once again.

Coutinho’s dream move turns into a nightmare

When he left the Premier League in January 2018, the Brazilian was ready to establish himself as one of the best in the world. Four years later, he seeks to rebuild his career, leave behind the nightmare of his ‘dream’ movement.

Not many players change Barcelona for Aston Villa and see it as a step forward, but for Coutinho it was a much needed change.

Gerrard played with Coutinho for two and a half seasons at Liverpool and his influence on this deal is clear. Villa, 13th in the Premier League, will rightly see it as a coup, although others take a more cynical stance.

Coutinho, let’s not forget, is the third most expensive player in football history. Only Neymar and Kylian Mbappé have been transferred for more than the $ 198 million that Barcelona agreed with Liverpool in 2018.

He was 25 at the time, was about to enter his prime and was seen in Catalonia as the heir apparent to Andrés Iniesta, a player who enthuses fans and hands out trophies. He definitely won some trophies – two La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey trophies and a Spanish Super Cup in Barcelona, ​​plus a Champions League during a loan period with Bayern Munich in 2020, but it wasn’t exactly. the reason.

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Coutinho, the most important signing in Barcelona’s history, has only 30 total appearances for the club and 24 in the last two seasons. With Barcelona now targeting bloody youngsters like Nico, Gavi and Yusuf Demir, Coutinho has had to content himself with a supporting role, showing up occasionally and often ineffectively from the bench.

His place in the Brazilian national team has also faded. His last internationalization came in October 2020, although, surprisingly, he was called up for the qualifying phase of the November World Cup. The likes of Lucas Paqueta, Raphinha, Antony, Vinicius Junior and Matheus Cunha, however, appeared ahead of him; a sign of the challenge he faces if he wishes to make his way into Tite’s plans for Qatar.

Can Coutinho revive his career at Aston Villa?

Villa, of course, hopes to be the beneficiary and will trust Coutinho to rediscover the magic that saw him light up Liverpool during his five years in Merseyside. After all, there was a reason Barcelona wanted to pay all that money for him.

Coutinho’s talent is enormous, his ability to carry the ball, pick killer passes and produce impressive long-distance shots has the potential to seriously improve Gerrard’s side, which has remained inconsistent since the loss of the talisman Jack Grealish to Manchester City. in summer.

Coutinho, naturally, has been linked to a host of Premier League clubs prior to the Aston Villa move. Liverpool’s name was mentioned in almost every transfer window, although the Reds’ stance has always been the same: no interest, no possibility of returning to Anfield, however well considered by Jurgen Klopp & Co.

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He made more than 200 appearances for the Reds, scoring 54 goals, but fans also remember the way he sought to engineer that signing to Barça, the transfer request on the eve of the 2017-18 season, and the curious ‘back injury’ that suffered. He kept him out of action for weeks after Liverpool refused to sell.

Klopp’s side improved after he left. The fee received by Coutinho effectively paid for the arrivals of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, who would be key players when Liverpool became European, world and eventually Premier League champions. They may have regretted his departure, but they haven’t missed him.

There will be, one imagines, many rubber collars once Coutinho gets down to work for Villa. Fans, experts and observers will be eager to see how much those four years at Barcelona have taken away from the player, and if Gerrard can be the one to unlock that rich potential once again.

If he can, then Villa may have succeeded in signing the window. But it is a big yes.

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