Philippe Coutinho officially completed his “dream” €160-million-euro move from Liverpool to Barcelona on Monday, making him the third most expensive player in history.
Coutinho, 25, signed a five-year contract in a ceremony sitting alongside Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu before posing on the Camp Nou pitch in a Barcelona shirt.
“I am very happy to be here. This is a dream come true and I hope to meet everyone’s expectations on the pitch,” Coutinho said.
Minutes before the Brazilian midfielder put pen to paper after a whirlwind few days, the club said a thigh injury would delay his debut until the end of January.
Barca’s swoop for Coutinho is outranked only by Paris Saint-Germain’s stunning world record 222-million-euro signing of Neymar from Barcelona last year, and the Paris club’s capture of French striker Kylian Mbappe in a deal eventually worth €180 million euros.
His arrival will help Barcelona to move on from the humiliation of losing Neymar to Qatar-backed PSG, and his presence alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez will help take the pressure off another of the club’s stars, 33-year-old Andres Iniesta.
Bartomeu said the club had secured “one of the stars of world football” and admitted that Liverpool had put up a fight to keep the player.
“It was not easy and other clubs expressed an interest in him, but he was determined to come here,” the president said.
Barcelona had made a bid for Coutinho in the summer, but Liverpool stood firm.
In the end, the lure of a huge profit on a player they paid just £8.5 million when he joined from Inter Milan in 2013 proved too strong for the English club.
A GOOD FIT
Coach Ernesto Valverde predicted Coutinho will comfortably fit into his star-studded team. He could now make his debut at home to Alaves on January 28.
Coutinho played with Suarez for 18 months at Liverpool before the Uruguayan made the same move to Spain in 2014.
Everybody knows about his quality. He has been playing at the highest level for years now and that is important,” Suarez said.
“Now we need to make sure he feels at home because we know that changing club is always difficult, but I think he is the type of player who will fit well into the team.”
Valverde admitted that it would be a challenge shoehorning his new recruit into a squad already running away with the Spanish league title.
“Coutinho is a player who I think can bring a lot to us,” said Valverde. “He’s an important signing.”
“I have seen him play in various positions — on the right, the left, in the middle, on the wings.”
The timing of Barca’s move for Coutinho has been questioned because he will not be able to play in the Champions League this season having already played in the competition for Liverpool.
But he is likely to be used to give Iniesta a rest, keeping the veteran midfielder fresh for the Champions League as Barcelona seek to wrest the trophy back from bitter rivals Real Madrid.
Rio-born Coutinho scored 54 goals for Liverpool in all competitions, although he won no silverware during his five-year stay at Anfield and he never made a secret of his desire to move to a club where Brazilians such as Ronaldinho and Romario have shone in the past.
His departure now is a blow to Liverpool as he had just returned to top form after an injury-hit start to the season, scoring seven goals in the last eight games of 2017 to put his side firmly in the Champions League places.
“It is no secret that Philippe has wanted this move to happen since July, when Barcelona first made their interest known,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said at the weekend.
“Philippe was insistent with me, the owners and even his teammates this was a move he was desperate to make happen.”
Liverpool have been tipped to quickly reinvest their windfall from the Coutinho sale.
Despite already paying Southampton £75 million for defender Virgil van Dijk, Klopp will be chasing an attacker with Leicester City’s Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez and Monaco midfielder Thomas Lemar already linked with a switch to Anfield.
Philippe Coutinho officially joined Barcelona on Monday, completing a move from Liverpool thought to be worth €160million, making it the third richest transfer in history.
While the Reds bagged a hefty transfer fee, there’s no doubt that this transfer will hurt Jurgen Klopp’s side, who would have hoped the Brazilian was set for a long spell at Anfield to help break the club’s title drought.
What sort of impact will this transfer have on Liverpool and Barcelona?
What sort of personality, off the pitch and on it, are Barca getting for their money?
He’s quiet and humble. He’s not going to be a big voice in the dressing room, but he will settle in quickly and be popular with his new team-mates.
Playing wise, he’s driven and fiercely ambitious – we’ve seen that in his desperation to make this move happen. He has matured and developed so much over the course of his five years at Liverpool.
He had a habit of drifting in and out of matches, but now he’s so much more consistent. He’s a match-winner.
His positionally flexibility between midfield and attack is a great asset but where do you see Coutinho being most effective for Barca?
I think Barca see him as Iniesta’s long-term successor. He is flexible. He played a lot of his football for Liverpool on the left of a front three, but over the past 12 months Jurgen Klopp has used primarily him in an advanced central midfield role.
That’s where he has the most influence on matches because he’s involved to a much greater degree when he’s operating in the middle. He has that rare ability to unlock a stubborn defence.
What formations has he played within during his time at Liverpool?
Many different ones. 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1, 4-4-2, 3-5-2. He’s won games for Liverpool from out on the left, drifting into pockets of space and causing havoc. But I think his future is definitely in the centre of midfield where he can really pull the strings.
We know his dribbling and strikes from range hallmark his ability but do those abilities overlook other aspects of his game which have caught the eye?
Tactically, he’s improved a great deal from working with Klopp. His decision making is so much better. I think sometimes his work rate gets overlooked. He’s not the kind of creative player who stands around waiting for the ball to come to him.
His close control is majestic and he will score spectacular goals, but his biggest asset for me is his passing. He will provide so many chances for the likes of Suarez and Messi with his vision and creative spark.
One of the more interesting aspects is how he will fit in with Lionel Messi. When Suarez joined he seemed more capable of adjusting to fit within the Argentine’s world but at Liverpool Coutinho has carried the creative burden. Could he experience some early teething problems or will he take his game to a new level?
I don’t think he’ll have any issues. This is his dream move and he’s reunited with one of his best friends in Suarez. Coutinho will love playing with Messi. It will be painful for Liverpool fans to watch but I only see Coutinho getting better and better at the Camp Nou.
Is there one game which stands out in your memory as one which perfectly encapsulates the type of player Barca have signed?
The one that sticks out for me is the Premier League game against Manchester City at Anfield in April 2014. It was 2-2 when Coutinho took centre stage and won the game late on with such a classy strike. At the time it looked like that win would propel Liverpool to the Premier League title. That didn’t happen but it ended talk that Coutinho didn’t deliver in the big games.
Iniesta could be the fall guy for Coutinho in the long run, do you think the Brazilian has what it takes to step into his shoes and deal with the pressure of the fee and this comparison?
I think he’ll embrace it. This is what he’s wanted since he was a kid. He’s taken his game to the next level this season. I don’t see him struggling under the weight of expectation. Playing for Liverpool and Brazil, he’s no strange to dealing with pressure.
Is his injury record a point of concern for Barcelona?
I wouldn’t say so. He made 201 appearances for Liverpool in the space of five years. In the four full seasons he spent at Anfield, the least number of games he played in any one campaign was 36 in 2016/17 when he was out for six weeks with ankle ligament damage.
I think a player like Coutinho is always going to get muscle injuries now and again. He’s also on the receiving end of some rough treatment from defenders. But he’s pretty robust and is no stranger to that physical side of things after his time in England.
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New Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho will be forced to wait at least three weeks before making his full debut for his new side.
The former Liverpool man’s medical at Blaugrana, ahead of his official unveiling on Monday, revealed he is suffering with a right thigh problem – the same issue that had kept him out of Jurgen Klopp’s team in recent fixtures.
The Brazilian is currently with the Barcelona medical staff before he will be publicly presented at the Nou Camp.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 8, 2018