The Coutinho Question

The Liverpool players have jetted off to America to continue their pre-season tour and give the supporters over there a chance to have a proper look at them in the flesh. It’s genius marketing from Fenway Sports Group, when you think about it. They know the US market and will be about as clued up as it’s possible to be in terms of how to take advantage of it. Improved shirt sales, a desire for American supporters to fly over to Anfield and watch us play will all raise good amounts of money for the club, which is no bad thing. That is especially true at a time when we might actually not have quite as much cash as everyone thinks. Yes, we’ve earned fortunes from winning the Champions League and the associated TV coverage, but don’t forget the number of incentivised contracts that will also have kicked in on the basis of having won the big shiny trophy, to say nothing of previous purchases that will almost certainly have contained a ‘Win The Champions League’ clause that sees the Reds need to pay more money to the selling club.

With that in mind, then, I’m starting to reassess my opinion on Liverpool’s summer business. I think there’s money there if the right target comes along, but it’s the likelihood of that happening that’s limiting our movement thus far. As much as I personally think there are all sorts of ways that the manager can improve the squad, we know that he’s very much of the opinion that it’s very, very difficult to strengthen the first team. The front three are amongst the best in the world, each having their own job to do; there aren’t many players that can easily swap with Roberto Firmino, for example. Liverpool are shopping in a much smaller pool than at any other time in recent history, then, and I suspect that we don’t have as much money as people think we do. Jürgen Klopp will be thinking long and hard about the right moves to make to actively improve his starting eleven and do so with players who understand how he works and won’t need to be taught his methods, which has naturally thrown up the Philippe Coutinho question.

His Talent Isn’t In Question & The Players Like Him

There are many conversations to be had around Philippe Coutinho, but his ability as a footballer isn’t one of them. His performances towards the end of his time at Anfield were up there with the best I’ve seen. He became an attacking sensation as the likelihood of him gaining a move to Barcelona loomed higher on the horizon. Having spent much of his Liverpool career feeling the need to have a shot from all over the pitch, leading to the opposition gaining a goal-kick far more often than it led to a goal, he knuckled down and his finishing improved markedly. Whilst I’m about to go on and argue that his return is both unlikely and would be a mistake, I don’t want to give the impression for one minute that I don’t think he was an extraordinarily talented player.

I also don’t want to give the impression that my dislike of the idea of Coutinho’s return is anything to do with moronic things like ‘he’s a snake’ or ‘a traitor’. I think Raheem Sterling’s behaviour was far worse than Coutinho’s, but I’d have him back in a heartbeat because he’s a talented player that would help us to win trophies. I also don’t buy into the idea that the players don’t like him any more; they’re professionals and they know that players have to do what’s right for their career as they see it at any given moment. I also wonder if there’s an extent to which some of them will actually be feeling a bit sorry for him, having forced through a move only to see the Barcelona fans fail to take him to their heart, the management team use him poorly and then see his former teammates win the biggest trophy in club football.

I Don’t Think He’s A ‘Klopp Player’

When Philippe Coutinho was a Liverpool player Jürgen Klopp would’ve been mad not to use him and try his hardest to get the best out of him. He worked with him and got him playing the best football of his career, so the idea that the two can’t work together is clearly ludicrous. Yet I don’t think that the German would have wanted to sign him if he’d been playing for, say, Bayern Munich or Juventus for the previous five years rather than already being at Anfield. The reality is that the Brazilian doesn’t work anywhere near hard enough in tracking back, pressing and covering the defence to be an effective cog in a Klopp side. I’ve seen people say that he didn’t play with Virgil van Dijk or Alisson Becker, so he doesn’t need to work that hard defensively any more. I don’t agree with that at all. We defend so well because of how hard the entire team works, not just thanks to those two players.

Think of how often an opposition team would be on the attack last season and it wasn’t because van Dijk had made a tackle or Alisson had made a save that stopped them from scoring but rather because Mo Salah, Sadio Mané or Roberto Firmino had chased the attacked down and nicked the ball of them. It’s everyone working for everyone else that makes Klopp’s teams so effective and removing Coutinho from the middle is a big part of the reason why the side has come on leaps and bounds since his departure, in my opinion. The argument that ‘you can never have too many excellent players’ is an easy one to make, but it ignores the fact that some players just don’t suit certain managers. As much as we all despise the man, Roy Hodgson’s time at Anfield might have been more successful if he’d been working with Andy Carroll over Fernando Torres, for example. Klopp would, I think, far sooner be guaranteed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s fitness for a year than take the Brazilian back from his Barcelona hell.

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It’s entirely possible that we announce that we’ve re-signed him in the next week or so and I look a complete idiot, of course. I have no problem with that and I certainly won’t be sulking if it happens. Given the choice between signing Coutinho or signing nobody this summer then I’d far sooner do the former. It’s also worth noting that if we do indeed end up facilitating his return then I will very obviously be wrong about the manager not wanting to work with him and will have no issue admitting as much. I don’t think I am, though, and I think that a move to Paris Saint-Germain is not only more likely but would actually suit the Brazilian more. I think that he’ll be happy in a league where he doesn’t have to work as hard tracking back and can just supply killer balls to the likes of Kylian Mbappe. We’ll see soon enough whether I’m right or not.

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