Philippe Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona will come as little surprise to football fans across the globe. The seemingly endless transfer saga that has been drawn out since the Catalan club courted the diminutive Brazilian throughout the summer of 2017 has finally come to a close.
At £142 million, he becomes Barcelona’s most expensive signing ever and will not be available to play Champions League football until next season. With the Blaugrana seemingly running away with the league this season, it begs the question: why now?
Spanish football pundit Guillem Balague suggests that Coutinho is not, in fact, a replacement for Neymar, but actually a replacement for the ageing Andreas Iniesta and that this half-season period is to help him adapt and hone in on new defensive duties required of him at Barcelona.
Undoubtedly a player of Coutinho’s ability would be missed by any team; however, has his departure come at a good time for Liverpool? Normally selling a key player in January would be seen as terrible business for any club, particularly that of a major team such as Liverpool, who are aiming for silverware.
Thanks to Jurgen Klopp’s eye for attacking players, Liverpool’s front four are almost interchangeable. The recent addition of Mohamed Salah has been a stroke of genius for Jurgen Klopp. The pacey Egyptian winger struggled during his stint at Chelsea and was shipped off to Roma shortly after. However, the winger has returned with a point to prove and prove it he has. Salah has scored 23 goals in 29 games in all competitions this season and is not only challenging for the Golden Boot, with the latest Premier League betting putting him at 4/1, but he’s also in contention with Kevin de Bruyne for Player of the Year.
During the 2016-17 season Sadio Mane was in insatiable form and unsurprisingly, following his departure for the Africa Cup of Nations, Liverpool’s results suffered a knock-on effect. His form has been inconsistent this season following his dismissal against Manchester City, but on his day, he is nearly unplayable.
Finally, Roberto Firmino, another of Liverpool’s Brazilian contingent, is tasked with leading the line. Firmino was never going to set the world alight with his goalscoring prowess; however, it is his link-up play with those around him and his tenacity that has endeared him to the Kop faithful.
Thanks to the ‘Fab Four’, Coutinho’s departure pales into somewhat insignificance compared to some other high-profile Anfield departures. Xabi Alonso’s departure to Real Madrid saw Liverpool lose one of the world’s best central midfielders, and with this followed closely by Javier Mascherano’s move to Barcelona less than 12 months later, the heart was ripped out from an established Liverpool side who had recently secured Champions League triumph on that historic night in Istanbul. Since then, the Reds have tried and failed to replace this midfield spine, with the likes of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Lucas Leiva failing to come close to match their predecessors’ dominance.