Antoine Griezmann’s decision to leave Atletico Madrid this summer could be the first domino to fall in the transfer window – with Philippe Coutinho likely to be impacted heavily by the Frenchman’s announcement.
Barcelona made Coutinho a club-record signing last January but the move hasn’t worked out, and if Griezmann arrives as expected it’s likely that the long-rumoured exit for the Brazilian will materialise this summer.
But where could he go? Unlike last winter when he was a player making a step up to the next level, right now the 26-year-old’s stock has fallen.
That being said, for a player of his talent and ability, there should be no shortage of suitors as clubs know how valuable Coutinho could be if he hits top form again. Here’s a look at five potential destinations for the Barcelona star.
What a sensational move this would be. The former Liverpool man, turning up at one of the club’s fiercest rivals and helping them on their journey back to the top.
Coutinho would be a ready-made replacement for Paul Pogba, a right-footed playmaker who can play on the left of midfield. If Manchester United do sell Pogba, Coutinho would slot into his role; if not, the Brazilian could play on either flank, or as a No 10, and ease the creative burden on the Frenchman.
Would the Brazilian want to join a club that has just finished sixth, and wouldn’t be in the Champions League next season? Perhaps he could be convinced that if he were part of the United rebuild he could help ensure that absence from Europe’s premier competition is kept to just one season.
Plus, they would likely match or top just about anyone else’s wage offer – and they might need to given their status as a Europa League club.
Whether Coutinho would want to risk further antagonising Liverpool fans – he was roundly booed at Anfield this month on his return as Barcelona crashed out – is a different story. But if he thinks joining United would be a good move, that shouldn’t be an issue.
Aside from joining United or Everton, there are few ways to infuriate Liverpool fans more than joining Chelsea, who have become one of the club’s bitterest rivals in the modern era.
A looming transfer ban may render all speculation moot but in recent days Coutinho has been linked with making exactly that move. If the Blues win their appeal, Coutinho would an ideal target to replace Eden Hazard, who is seemingly Real Madrid-bound this summer.
His familiarity with English football makes him a good target for Chelsea – and for United – and in a summer that could see other creative players like Willian and Pedro leave, Coutinho would be a good signing.
Despite his struggles at Barcelona he should still be viewed as a reliable playmaker, one who is a bigger guarantee of success than young stars Christian Pulisic, who is set to join Chelsea this summer, and Callum Hudson-Odoi, the west London club’s highly-rated youth prospect who looks increasingly likely to stay having previously been linked with an exit.
And unlike United, Chelsea can offer Champions League football rather than just the chance to remind Liverpool what they’re missing out on.
Paris Saint-Germain can never have too many attacking players – there’s rarely a summer that goes by that they don’t make one high-profile signing on that side of the pitch, whether they need to or not.
This summer, Edinson Cavani is likely to leave the club, and though Angel di Maria and Julian Draxler are still there, Coutinho is the sort of player who could fit well with Kylian Mbappe and, especially, close friend Neymar.
The former Barcelona star has reportedly already suggested to PSG that they sign his compatriot, and Neymar usually gets what he wants.
An Mbappe, Coutinho, Neymar strike force would ensure the Parisians would lose no firepower with Cavani’s departure – and keep intact the MCN acronym that has become associated with their current trio.
And Neymar and Coutinho could help get the best out of each other, making the Ligue 1 champions an even more fearsome prospect. Perhaps the duo could help PSG finally achieve their ultimate goal of winning the Champions League.
Coutinho has already had a spell at Inter Milan, who were the first club to spot his talent when he was playing in Brazil. The Serie A giants signed Coutinho as a 16-year-old and brought him to Italy two years later, in 2010, after allowing him to continue his development at Vasco da Gama.
However, it wasn’t a particularly successful time at Inter for the Brazilian, who made only 28 appearances over three seasons, and he was even loaned out to Espanyol at one point.
But if he returned now, it would be as a developed player rather than an exciting prospect – and he could be just the sort of player to help bridge the gap to Juventus.
Coutinho would be the perfect replacement for Eder, the Brazil-born playmaker who left Inter for China last summer. He would take up the mantle as the club’s new No 10, and help make them not only Serie A title challengers again but perhaps even a force to be reckoned with in Europe – Inter are one win away from guaranteeing Champions League football for a second straight season.
And he shouldn’t be unaffordable for the Italian club, who are likely offloading striker Mauro Icardi this summer. The proceeds from that sale would help fund a move for Coutinho.
Speaking of returns, what about the most dramatic one? On Tuesday, former Liverpool captain Phil Thompson said the club should welcome their former star back into the fold if the opportunity arises.
Whether the fans would agree is a different matter, but surely they’d come around once Coutinho pulled on the famous red shirt again and started recreating the Fab Four attack that he, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah had become.
Though he had handed in a transfer request and missed training in August 2017, six months before he actually left for Barcelona, there were no signs that his departure last January was a contentious one within the club at least. There likely wouldn’t need to be any thawing of relations between player and team if both sides were open to a return.
Coutinho might just be the player Liverpool need to get over the hump in the Premier League, as well. Last season, until Virgil van Dijk arrived in the aftermath of the Brazilian’s exit, the side had a thrilling attack but a shambolic defence.
This year they had the best defence in the league thanks to the Dutchman, and while the attack was almost just as good as before, they could have used someone with Coutinho’s ability to unlock a defence in any one of the seven draws that ultimately cost them a first league title in 29 years, as they finished one point behind Manchester City.
It might be controversial and Coutinho would have to win over the Liverpool fans again, but this would be a move that could suit both player and club.
Contract talks between Chelsea and Callum Hudson-Odoi have yet to resume but the young attacker is increasingly keen to stay at the club and is hoping to inherit Eden Hazard‘s No10 shirt if the Belgian winger leaves this summer as expected, according to Goal.
The 18-year-old was linked with a move away from England during the January transfer window, having found his path into the first team blocked by wingers Willian and Pedro as manager Maurizio Sarri was reluctant to turn to Hudson-Odoi.
But the club continued to value their academy product as a prized asset and rejected four offers from Bayern Munich despite no assurances that Hudson-Odoi would stay in west London, with his current contract set to expire next season.
Sarri also softened his stance and Hudson-Odoi made four Premier League starts late in the season before suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in April.
He was named Chelsea’s young player of the year at the club’s end-of-season awards.
Bayern were willing to offer him the No10 shirt as well, with current holder Arjen Robben set to leave the club this summer, while Manchester United were also said to be interested in the London-born winger – though a move to a domestic rival would be unlikely.
Hazard, who has been at Chelsea for seven seasons, has been linked with a move to Real Madrid all season and is all but certain to leave Chelsea after next week’s Europa League final, though the two clubs have yet to agree a transfer fee.
Brazil legend Rivaldo has suggested that compatriot Gabriel Jesus should consider leaving Manchester City for the betterment of his career after a season in which the young striker saw his role reduced.
After his arrival in January 2017 it was thought Jesus could supplant Sergio Aguero as City’s lead striker. But though he’s made the same number of league appearances, 29, this season as he did in 2017/18, he’s made less than half as many starts – eight compared to 19 the season before.
Across competitions, his productivity has stayed roughly the same, from 17 goals in 42 appearances in 2017/18 to 19 in 46 this season, and he’s scored three times in five FA Cup games heading into this weekend’s final, when City face Watford bidding for a domestic treble having won the Premier League and League Cup already in 2018/19.
But manager Pep Guardiola’s preference for formations with just one striker have seen Jesus become marginalised, especially after Raheem Sterling’s development into City’s premier star alongside Aguero, who has continued to be on top form and adjusted to playing under the Spanish manager.
Rivaldo believes Jesus could stay and fight for his place, and continue to develop under Guardiola, but that a move away would be a better solution.
“Gabriel Jesus wasn’t as influential this season as he was in the last one and I think he has two valid options for next season,” the former Brazil and Barcelona star said (h/t Goal.com).
“As a young prospect he could continue and keep evolving with Guardiola, hoping that more chances come, or he could leave for another club of similar stature to try to become a regular starting 11 player.
“I see the second option as the best solution. He already gained experience and maturity at City and looks prepared for a new challenge in a team where he could be more important for the team.”