Philippe Coutinho is reborn at Barcelona: Granted attacking freedom by Ronald Koeman and settling back into life as Lionel Messi’s neighbour, he is now playing like the £145m man they thought they’d signed from Liverpool
- Philippe Coutinho arrived at Barcelona for a huge fee of £145million in 2018
- He has since failed to hit the heights but has now worked his way back into XI
- Under Ronald Koeman, he’s playing like the star Barcelona thought they’d signed
- He’s thriving with attacking freedom and delivering on defensive responsibilities
Barcelona looked born again under Ronald Koeman on Thursday night and no one more so than Philippe Coutinho, who suddenly looks the player the club thought they had signed from Liverpool for £145million in January 2018.
In Barcelona’s new 4-2-3-1 system Coutinho is playing in the middle of the line of three behind the striker when the team attacks, and when they don’t have the ball he is charged with working to support the central midfield pair.
He is thriving with the attacking freedom and delivering on his defensive responsibilities too. It’s as if that first full season that ended in disappointment and a loan move to Bayern Munich never happened.
Philippe Coutinho once again starred for Barcelona in the victory over Celta Vigo on Thursday
The Brazilian has come in from the cold after a stuttering start to his time at the Nou Camp
Bigger tests will come. Barcelona’s next three games against Sevilla, Getafe and Real Madrid are likely to ask far more questions of them than first two opponents Villarreal and Celta Vigo have done, but Coutinho was man-of-the-match in the driving Galician rain and there are even signs he could full the void left in Lionel Messi’s life by the departure of Luis Suarez.
Messi needs a new best friend and while 17-year-old Ansu Fati is the player Barcelona’s No 10 had taken under his wing, Coutinho could become the new side-kick.
When Coutinho arrived at Barcelona, Suarez helped him settle into the same Costa Brava beach town with his wife Aine where Messi and Suarez had set-up home.
He was voted man of the match in the Joan Gamper Trophy pre-season clash with Elche
Coutinho is thriving under new manager Ronald Koeman (centre) and has a new lease of life
Coutinho arrived at Barcelona for a mammoth fee of £145m but failed to hit the heights
Suarez may have left for the capital but Coutinho and Messi remain neighbours and the close group that includes Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique has welcomed the Brazilian back from his loan spell in Bavaria.
On the pitch Coutinho has certainly stayed close to Messi. Koeman’s grand plan is that Barcelona’s front four rotate positions. When Messi drops off that allows Coutinho to run beyond him, just as when Messi drifts wide he can change positions with Fati or Antoine Griezmann.