It’s A Coutinh-no From Me

I was originally thinking of writing a piece today simply entitled ‘A Title Winning Week?’, but I didn’t want to tempt fate. That, and I can’t see Arsenal getting so much as a throw-in out of Manchester City on Wednesday. It’s not always easy to pick a topic to write about, especially when you’ve already written about certain things in the past. Yet just a few minutes spent on social media will immediately result in seeing scores of tweets from people talking about the possible return of Philippe Coutinho to Liverpool and that strikes me as a particularly mad move for Jürgen Klopp to make. It’s not because of the histrionics of ‘he forced his way out’ or ‘he faked a back injury’ or anything like that; I simply don’t think he’s the sort of player that the manager likes. Look back at the Brazilian’s time at the club and you’ll be able to find a few examples of him tracking back to help out the defence, for example, but it wasn’t his natural game.

He was always a forward-minded player, which isn’t intended as a criticism. He scored some wonderful goals and was part of some excellent team moves, but it’s not a coincidence that we’ve been far more sound defensively since he left and Sadio Mané moved over the lefthand side. Mané is just as capable of scoring amazing goals and being part of brilliant moves as Coutinho but he also works so much harder defensively than the Brazilian ever did. Him returning to Anfield wouldn’t just result in us having another player to try to accommodate, it would also shift the balance of the team every time he played. That’s a big part of the reason why I can’t see Jürgen Klopp signing off on the move. Yes, he’d be excellent value in terms of only being on loan and the rumours of Barcelona being willing to pay a percentage of his wages, but money alone isn’t always a consideration in transfers. Here’s my reasoning why I think it should be a ‘no’.

We’ve Evolved As A Team Since He Left

When Liverpool agreed a fee with RB Leipzig over the transfer of Naby Keïta to Anfield in August of 2017, it made perfect sense. Though he wouldn’t be arriving until the following summer, he was a player who seemed to be ready-made to fit into Jürgen Klopp’s attack-minded side. When he eventually arrived in July of 2018, however, the team had evolved somewhat from the one that we signed him for. I think it’s a big part of the reason why the Guinean has failed to properly settle on Merseyside, with niggling injuries not helping on that front. For Keïta, read Coutinho. He was arguably the best player in the Liverpool side prior to his departure for Barcelona, though Mohamed Salah would obviously have something to say about that. With the money the Spanish side paid us for him, however, we bought Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker. Who would you say is the best player in the side now? One of them? Trent? Sadio?

The Liverpool team now is an entirely different beast from the one that Coutinho left. On top of that, re-signing him would limit opportunities for the likes of Takumi Minamino and Curtis Jones, both of whom see themselves as similar players positionally. If Philippe Coutinho had never played for Liverpool and he played in exactly the same during his time in the Premier League as he did for, say, Arsenal before having the career that he’s had since then, would anyone be desperate for us to sign him now? I don’t think so. It’s a form of nostalgia that means Liverpool are willingly forgetting his worse habits and acting as if he was only ever world-class for us. They forget the numerous times he offered little to games, sent shots high into the Kop or didn’t track his runner. They’re the sort of things that Jürgen Klopp will remember when he thinks of Coutinho’s time at the club and why I don’t think he’ll want him to re-join.

What Does It Tell Our Other Players If We Re-Sign Him?

Perhaps Jürgen Klopp absolutely loved Philippe Coutinho during his time at Anfield. Maybe my assertion that the manager wouldn’t have wanted to sign him if he had played for Arsenal instead of us is complete nonsense. Perhaps the German can see exactly where and how he’d fit into this current Liverpool side and is itching to try to bring him back. All of this is, of course, just my opinion and if we do end up re-signing him then I’m not going to throw my toys out of the pram and refuse to be excited when watching him play. What I will do, though, is have a niggling fear about what it says to the other big players that we’ve got in our side. What does it tell Mohamed Salah about a possible move away in the next couple of years if we’re willing to simply re-sign a player who downed tools to effectively force a move away from Merseyside if his new life doesn’t work out for him? Will it make a similar move look appealing to Sadio Mané?

It doesn’t send the right message, in my opinion. Now you might not be overly bothered about such a thing, but you can be certain that Jürgen Klopp will be. The German hasn’t really worked with players that he’s let go in the past, so it would be somewhat surprising to see him change his mind on that policy. The one very obvious time that he nearly did was when Mario Götze was lined up to head to Anfield, only to decide not to when we couldn’t offer him Champions League football. Might that be a ‘once bitten’ type scenario for the manager? We’ve reportedly failed to sign Timo Werner this summer because of financial reasons, so would bringing back Coutinho make any sense when our finances haven’t changed? Yes, it would be on loan, but the wages would still be high and he’s nothing like Werner in playing terms. Wouldn’t it be a far more Klopp move to work with someone new who could be signed for equally little money? We’ll see.

One Response
  1. June 18, 2020

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