There has been plenty of talk about Philippe Coutinho over the past couple of months and especially during the summer transfer window.
The 25-year-old Brazilian did not let the intense talk about his possible move to Barcelona disrupt his mental balance as he headed into the 2017/18 season in red-hot form – once again proving he is the ultimate leader of his Liverpool side.
Having arrived for paltry £8.5 million from Inter Milan back in 2013, Coutinho has evolved into a world-class midfielder, establishing himself as one of the planet’s best playmakers. It can come as little surprise to see a club such as Barcelona would come knocking on Liverpool’s door but it surely can come as little surprise to see a player such as Coutinho being tempted by a prospect of playing at Camp Nou.
Despite being one of the most renowned football clubs in England, Liverpool have been going through some difficult times in recent years with persistent underachievement in race for major honours harming the stature of the Anfield giant.
And with the likes of Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and (until recently) Neymar, Coutinho does not deserve hate for considering a move away from Liverpool.
Barcelona would – as hard as it is for me as a Liverpool fan to admit it – be a great platform for Coutinho to continue his development and upgrade his performances to an even higher level. The Catalan giants are widely expected to return for the Brazilian in January and Liverpool need to find a way to hold on to their prized asset. At least until the end of the season.
Liverpool fans should also give plenty of credit to their favourite star for not acting like the likes of Alexis Sanchez or Virgil van Dijk – apparently turning their back on respective clubs – but instead putting on the Red shirt week in and week out and giving nothing but his absolute best for the Reds.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 26, 2017
The Brazilian is playing on another level and his most recent masterclass display against Swansea is sure to add a more tempting note to that Barcelona link.
The Boxing Day fixture was a sort of a milestone for Coutinho who made his 200th appearance for Liverpool. And what better way to celebrate this cornerstone by putting in a superb performance capped by a spectacular goal.
As Jordan Ayew surrendered possession far too easily at a dangerous position, Liverpool’s quick-feet trio took the stage with Roberto Firmino latching on a ball to supply Mohamed Salah. The on-fire Egyptian fed Coutinho with a pinpoint pass which Liverpool’s No.10 transformed into a wonderful curl which went over his markers Federico Fernandez, Roque Mesa and Kyle Naughton to end up flying into the top corner.
And what a goal to mark it… 🔥 pic.twitter.com/21ohrcKKlC
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 26, 2017
Coutinho could not have imagined a better way to celebrate Christmas than with his 12th goal of the season, 7th in December and 19th scored outside the penalty area since his Premier League debut in 2013.
This magical moment provided more than just a goal, however.
It provided proof that defensively fragile Liverpool will struggle to find a force so strong and influential when Coutinho leaves. Do not doubt for a minute that Barcelona will not succeed in their intention to grab hold of the Brazilian magician.
Coutinho is currently a 4/6 bet to sign for Barcelona during the winter transfer market but these odds – as tempting as they may sound – might not being value with Liverpool determined not to sell their star player in the middle of the season.
Could Keita be the Key?
The Reds will have to find a compromise and could promise Coutinho an open exit door at the end of the season when RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita is expected to arrive. A completely different type of a footballer to Philippe Coutinho, Keita could still very much have the same influence on Liverpool’s play.
Keita – just as Coutinho – is strong on the ball and not easily dispossessed and, on the other hand, provides a bit of a defensive upgrade on the Brazilian. Keita’a ability to stop the opposing play and shit the focus instantaneously to attack is exactly what Liverpool need.
If we add a poor fan’s wish Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as a towering presence at the centre of the park, Liverpool could truly get even more than what Philippe Coutinho is able to provide.
For now, though, we should all enjoy the magical moments provided to us courtesy of fully motivated and determined – smiling – Philippe Coutinho.
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