Over a week ago, Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho completed his long-awaited move to Barcelona by putting pen to paper on a five-year deal for a reported fee of £160 million, a new British transfer record.
The high-figure transfer makes the former Liverpool ace the second-most expensive player ever in world football behind fellow Brazilian Neymar.
The Catalonian club’s interest in the former Liverpool man was known for a while, but amid heavy links and continuous speculation during this January transfer market, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde finally has his man.
It was also in the Brazilian’s intentions to make the dream move, as he looks forward to making that next big step in his professional career.
Valverde’s team is playing some great football, which has contributed to the team successfully qualifying for the round of 16 in the Champions League and leading La Liga by nine points. Coutinho’s signing only boosts Barca’s chances further of regaining the Spanish crown back from rivals Real Madrid.
Los Blancos are a dismal 19 points behind the leaders with a game in hand and are enduring their worst run of form under manager Zinedine Zidane.
For Barcelona, the signing of the 25-year-old is perceived by many as the eventual replacement of club legend Andreas Iniesta. Although the Spanish midfielder is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, the Brazilian international has slowly progressed into a world-class footballer over the course of his five-year spell in the Premier League.
Coutinho possess all the attributes that fit into how the Spanish side like to play football, meaning settling into new surrounds and fitting in with more world-class players should not be an issue.
Coutinho will be reunited with Luis Suarez, who left Liverpool to join Barca in 2014. The two almost enjoyed a memorable 2013-14 campaign together when Liverpool were agonisingly close to capturing the Premier League title had it not been for Manchester City pipping them at the final hurdle.
Although the former Inter Milan player was unable to clinch a single trophy during his five years on Merseyside, he now has the opportunity to win trophies for years on end at a successful club like Barcelona.
As for how he will fit in, Coutinho will likely slot into left-midfield in Valverde’s successful 4-4-2 formation, with either Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic or Paulinho to occupy other positions.
The club was recently dealt another big blow concerning expensive youngster Ousmane Dembele, who had briefly returned from a long-term injury that he sustained at the beginning of the season, but now faces another expected four weeks on the sidelines.
Coutinho’s move also allows 53-year-old Valverde to be tactically flexible, as he can revert back to playing a 4-3-3, which he used at the very start of the campaign. He has the luxury of playing Coutinho in a midfield three or part of an attacking trio alongside Suarez and Messi.
It will be interesting to see how Valverde shapes up his side with Coutinho at his disposal, and when Dembele eventually recovers from his second setback this season.
A positive for the Spanish manager is that he has depth in midfield, meaning he can use and shuffle the likes of Andre Gomez, Dennis Suarez and utility man Sergi Roberto.
Whatever Valverde elects to do, Coutinho and the other squad members are more than capable of adapting to changes, but for the time being the 4-4-2 is working a treat.
The Brazilian will not be able to partake in Barcelona’s quest to capture Champions League glory as he has already participated in the competition with Liverpool.
This means the Brazilian wizard can play an influential role for Barca in maintaining their position at the top of La Liga and in the Copa Del Rey.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who remained adamant Coutinho would remain in red, could not stop the Brazilian fulfilling his dream and now must move on.
Despite the German manager showing good initiative to bring in former Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk for a club record €75 million, the loss of their midfield maestro to the La Liga giants could prove huge and Liverpool will be looking to dive into the market, looking for personnel of similar quality.
Names linked to Liverpool this transfer window include Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez, who are tipped as potential candidates to replace Coutinho.
In saying that, the club began their post-Coutinho era off in spectacular fashion by handing Manchester City their first league defeat of the season. Klopp’s men downed their opponents 4-3 in one of the games of the season.
Throughout the encounter, Liverpool showed off their brilliant attacking prowess and high press when they managed to hit City with three unanswered strikes in the space of nine second half minutes.
Judging by the performance, Liverpool seem more than capable of producing in attack and midfield, with Mohamed Salah enjoying a great season, Sadio Mane finding his feet again and Roberto Firmino showing why he is one of the most underrated strikers in the league.
In midfield, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was excellent against City as he looks to tie down the midfield role he has been crying out for. Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum provide the Reds good energy in the middle of the park and fit into Klopp’s demanding system.
Liverpool also have Adam Lallana slowly returning to the fray and club captain Jordan Henderson is not far from returning from a hamstring injury. The club will also look forward to the arrival of RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita for the start of the 2018-19 campaign, who will provide insurance in midfield.
While Liverpool’s attack and midfield are capable of delivering without Coutinho, it is defence where the Reds are still having major problems.
New signing van Dijk was ruled out prior to the City match with a hamstring injury and Klopp really could have done with the Dutchman at the heart of his defence.
Although the Merseysiders managed to hang on and claim all three points, the club needs to address its defensive frailties while the current transfer window is open.
It would also be wise of Klopp to consider brining in another goalkeeper due to the inconsistencies of Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius.
Coutinho’s sale means the German manager has more than half the money at his disposal than that was received when Brendan Rodgers was in charge and Suarez was sold for €75 million by the club in 2014. If past experiences are anything to go by, it is important that the 50-year-old uses the money more wisely on reinforcements.
Take this into account knowing that the Reds are striving for a top four finish in the league, still in the running to compete for the FA Cup and look forward to a round of 16 face-off with FC Porto in the Champions League.
Overall, Coutinho’s departure gives Klopp a serious opportunity to strengthen the current squad if they have any aspirations of claiming silverware for the first time under the German and in the years to come.