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Can Coutinho make a real difference for Aston Villa?

Picture: Getty (Getty Photos)

It might not be doable to really feel sorry for somebody who bought to rake in tens of thousands and thousands of {dollars} to dwell in Barcelona (with a quick sojourn to Munich) and never need to do a lot. And positively Liverpool supporters gained’t have any sympathy for Philippe Coutinho given the best way he exited Anfield for the Nou Camp in 2018.

However Coutinho turning into maybe the prime image of Barcelona’s mismanagement, largesse, and silliness isn’t actually Coutinho’s fault. No less than not solely. It wasn’t Coutinho’s fault that Barca have been so determined to spend the cash that they’d gotten from PSG for Neymar. It wasn’t Coutinho’s fault that Ousmane Dembélé, the opposite splurge from the Neymar bounty, had already confirmed to be perma-crocked by the point Coutinho even confirmed up. And it wasn’t Coutinho’s fault that he took what was a promotion, and it was again then, to play for a group that already had a ball-dominant participant that made his abilities redundant. Actually, they’d THE ball dominant participant in Lionel Messi. Think about signing Russell Westbrook, in his prime, to be an off-the-ball screener and shooter. It was about as unhealthy of a match as doable.

It’s getting fairly small within the rearview now, nevertheless it was solely 4 years in the past that Coutinho was one of many Premier League’s most fun midfielders. However Liverpool have been geared for him, as he spent his greatest season enjoying in a ahead line with Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino completely satisfied to play off of him. And a half-season enjoying behind these two and Mo Salah, all making runs for him to string passes to or create house for his often unconscionable shot choice. Liverpool additionally both surrounded or backed up Coutinho with an industrious midfield that would let him improvise and float whereas protecting for him.

It didn’t assist Coutinho’s rep that, when he left Liverpool, they used the money to signal Virgil van Dijk instantly, watched him turn out to be perhaps the most effective defender on the planet, after which mosey to consecutive Champions League finals and a Premier League title. Nor did it assist that Jurgen Klopp and the Liverpool braintrust by no means actually felt the necessity to change Coutinho, shunting artistic duty to their fullbacks and leaving the midfield to be extra energetic than inspirational.

Maybe Barcelona thought merely placing Coutinho into the identical lineup with Luis Suárez once more would simply recreate the magic they’d in England at Liverpool. However they didn’t have the identical spots on the sphere open. When at Liverpool, Coutinho performed on the head of a midfield diamond behind Suárez and Daniel Sturridge. That’s not the formation Barca used. Ivan Rakitić was already the place Coutinho can be in midfield, and on the left of the entrance three, one spends a whole lot of time watching Messi do his factor. Working into house isn’t Coutinho’s recreation.

Even within the ensuing years, Coutinho’s by no means been a excessive power employee, which implies the opposite two midfielders need to cowl some floor. As Sergio Busquets’s odometer had a number of hundred thousand miles on it already, that wasn’t one thing Barca might present both.

All of it has made Coutinho a determine of unhappiness for the previous 4 seasons. He had a entrance row seat to their Champions League collapses towards Roma and Liverpool. He was loaned out to Munich, which allowed him to be on the precise aspect of one other paddling of Barca, and he scored twice for Munich in that 8-2 win, however couldn’t stick in Munich. The remainder of the time he’s been a bit-part participant, because the recollections of him successful video games on his personal fade an increasing number of.

Nonetheless, Coutinho is (someway) solely 29, and that participant needs to be in there someplace. And there could also be no extra excellent setting to get it out of him than enjoying for his former captain in Steven Gerrard and for a group that was constructed round a ball-dominant aptitude participant who lived on the left aspect of the assault. That’s what Coutinho will discover at Aston Villa.

Villa spent the previous two seasons working by Jack Grealish, whose skill-set matches up fairly effectively with Coutinho’s. And there’s a wide range of methods Gerrard might deploy him. On the left with Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins. Or behind them in the identical midfield diamond that Gerrard performed in with Coutinho. In John McGinn and Douglas Luiz or Jacob Ramsey, they’ve the exhausting working gamers to cowl.

Coutinho is definitely the largest identify to reach at Villa in a while, nevertheless it’s murky as to what Villa hope to realize. They’re 9 factors out of the European spots. They’re 11 factors away from relegation. They’ve solely introduced Coutinho in on mortgage for the remainder of the season, and it’s exhausting to fathom that even when issues go effectively as might be they’re going to stump up a switch price and pay Coutinho’s wages to maintain him completely (rumored to be round $22 million a yr) except Coutinho is keen to take a large pay lower.

Maybe it’s only a assertion of intent from each. Villa to show to different gamers and brokers that they’ve severe goals within the subsequent few years below Gerrard. Coutinho to point out that he can nonetheless be that participant when the setting is correct. Maybe they will do one another a favor and assist one another’s future, even when they’ll be away from one another.

It’s a boom-or-bust sort of deal, however Villa don’t have a lot to lose. Coutinho does although, which in all probability has Gerrard and Villa relying on him enjoying prefer it.

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