Philippe Coutinho says the prospect of playing with the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez means his move to Barcelona is a dream come true ahead of his official unveiling.
The finishing touches have been put on his British record transfer from Liverpool, which could be worth up to £142million, and the Spanish club will parade him at the Nou Camp on Monday.
The 25-year-old Brazil international, who watched his new side’s 3-0 win over Levante on Sunday, will perform a ceremonial signing of his contract at 1130GMT on Monday before a photo shoot on the pitch and a press conference.
He told Barca TV: “I’m very happy, very happy. I have always said that it is a dream that I am living and I am very happy to be here.
“To be able to play, win titles, make the fans happy… always play with joy.
“It is incredible to know that I am going to live with idols, players with a lot of history.
“Footballers like Leo Messi, Luis Suarez, (Andres) Iniesta, (Gerard) Pique, (Sergio) Busquets.
“I am very happy to be able to live together, to be able to learn from them and be able to win together.”
Having earlier been presented at a photocall, Coutinho posted a short video message on the Barcelona Twitter feed.
“Hi Barca fans. I am already here, it is a dream come true, and I hope to see you tomorrow,” Coutinho said.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 8, 2018
Coutinho is joining a team that are nine points clear at the top of LaLiga and seemingly on the way to another title.
And boss Ernesto Valverde is confident Coutinho, who arrived at Liverpool from Inter Milan for £8.5million in January 2013, will prove a valuable addition to his star-studded squad.
“I think he can bring us a lot of things,” Valverde said at a press conference after Sunday’s game, as quoted by Spanish media outlet Marca.
“Coutinho scores goals, assists, he can play both inside (down the centre) and outside (on the flanks).
“I have seen him play in many positions both for Liverpool and in his national team.
“After taking a long break, he is already with us, we hope he will help us and we will wait to see him train for at least one day to assess his condition.”
Here are Seven Deadly Stats from the game.
MESSI’S STUNNING FORM
Everyone knows Messi has been at his totemic best this season. And, having missed out on the title of top goalscorer last season, he made sure to start the calendar year as he means to go on, breaking the deadlock after 12 minutes on Sunday. He’d go on to provide the assist for Paulinho before the game ended.
Lionel Messi has now been directly involved in 23 goals in his last 17 games in La Liga:
16 goals ⚽
7 assists 🅰️
Frightening form. pic.twitter.com/H9xKdZRkx7
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 7, 2018
SUAREZ GETS OVER POOR START…
It wasn’t too long ago that there were concerns over Suarez’s poor form, to the point where some observers thought this could be the start of a permanent decline. The Uruguayan is putting that talk to bed, having rediscovered his scoring touch with a neat finish just before the break.
8 – Luis Suarez has scored in six of his last seven league games for Barcelona (eight goals) – he had only found the net in two of his previous seven (two goals). Streak. pic.twitter.com/E8w0tcLNvN
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 7, 2018
… AND OVERTAKES A BARCELONA GREAT
When it comes to Barcelona, records ,and scoring charts, the talk is usually about Messi. But Suarez has been prolific since joining the club, and it hasn’t taken him long to write his name in Barcelona’s history books. His goal on Sunday took him past Samuel Eto’o on the club’s scoring list.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 7, 2018
SERGI ROBERTO FINDING HIS FEET
Sergi Roberto has struggled to get consistent gametime in his preferred midfield berth for Barcelona, and that’s only going to get tougher with the arrival of Philippe Coutinho. But he still finds a way to showcase his talent from right back, and his first-time pass across the box for Suarez’s goal was sublime.
3 – Sergi Roberto has provided an assist in three consecutive La Liga appearances for the first time in his career. Selfless. pic.twitter.com/p6VAQNeZ9H
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 7, 2018
PAULINHO CONTINUES TO SURPRISE
Speaking of midfielders who might have to take a step back once Coutinho is integrated, Paulinho seems like the prime candidate – except, can he really be dropped right now? The season he’s having has taken everyone by surprise, and on current form, deserves to be the first-choice attacking midfielder.
7 – Paulinho has scored more goals than any other midfielder in La Liga this season. Predatory.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 7, 2018
DEMBELE’S SOLID RETURN
In the midst of the Coutinho fanfare, the last player Barcelona broke their transfer record for – just over four months ago – made his La Liga return. Ousmane Dembele hadn’t played in the league since his injury in September, so his inclusion on the team sheet on Sunday was a welcome sight. And on his return to the Camp Nou, he pulled off the most Barcelona stat possible.
🎯 Ousmane Dembele completed 100% of his passes (35 attempted) on his return to league action from injury for Barcelona vs Levante
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 7, 2018
BARCA BANISH NEW YEAR BLUES
Surprisingly, Barcelona haven’t always made a great return from the winter break. Perhaps it’s the lack of momentum, or maybe it’s just rust, but they hadn’t won their first league game of the year in four years.
FC Barcelona win their first league match of the new year for the first time since the 4-0 home victory against Elche in 2014. #BarcaLevante
— Gracenote Live (@GracenoteLive) January 7, 2018
Coutinho, 25, will move from Liverpool in a deal worth 160 million euros ($192 million), the third-biggest transfer in football history and a club record deal for Barcelona.
The Brazilian has agreed a contract through to 2023 at the Camp Nou, with Barcelona fans seeing him as the long-term successor to Andres Iniesta, and Valverde is aiming to make the most of the Brazilian’s adaptability and ability to play in a range of positions.
“I think he can bring a lot to the team. He scores and sets up goals, and going forward he can help us a lot as he can play both inside and out wide,” remarked Valverde after Barcelona’s comfortable 3-0 La Liga win over Levante on Sunday.
“He is versatile and we can take advantage of his versatility.”
The deal had been in the pipeline for months, with Barca failing with several bids in August after losing Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record 222 million-euro deal.
And having previously tried to avoid talking about Coutinho, Valverde can now look forward to welcoming him into his squad for a busy second half of the season.
“It is a signing that has been talked about for a long time, although it was not something I was keen to discuss,” said Valverde, whose team are still unbeaten in La Liga and sit nine points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of the table.
“He is here now, and good luck to him, because if he has luck then it will be good for us.”
Capable of playing on the wing and in a more withdrawn midfield role, Coutinho’s arrival provides a wealth of new options to Valverde, although he will not be able to play in the Champions League knockout phase having already featured in the competition for Liverpool.
“We will wait until I have seen him train for a day at least until we talk about that,” added Valverde when pressed on where the ex-Inter Milan man would fit into his team.
“It is true that I have seen videos of him playing in different positions, for Liverpool and for his country. But let’s wait and see.
“I hope he adapts quickly, although good players adapt quickly to any circumstances.”
Lionel Messi sent Barca on their way to victory against Levante with a goal on his 400th La Liga appearance, which was followed up by strikes from Luis Suarez and Paulinho.
Paulinho, a team-mate of Coutinho’s with Brazil, said: “He is a great player, a magnificent player. I am certain he will really help Barca to attain our objectives this season. We hope to see him playing for us as soon as possible.”
Provided by AFP Sport