Arsenal make Philippe Coutinho progress after hiring ex-Man Utd scout who discovered star

Arsenal’s chances of landing Philippe Coutinho this summer appear to have been boosted after recruiting the man who helped the Brazilian revive his career when he was a teenager.

The Gunners have hired Toni Lima, an experienced scout who has worked with Inter Milan and Manchester United in his career, as part of their backroom staff overhaul.

The former Andorra international has joined Mikel Arteta’s transfer recruitment team and will work directly under sporting director Edu Gaspar.

His most recent role was as Alaves’ head of international football after being appointed by the LaLiga outfit in 2019.

But according to Diario Sport, he left the Spanish club by mutual consent due to personal reasons — despite having a year left on his contract.

Once the Gunners learned of his availability, it is reported the club made an offer to Lima to become part of their scouting team.

The 50-year-old will head up the department responsible for discovering new talent in Spain to sign for the first-team.

It will be similar to the role he held when he worked with Manchester United for two years, having linked up with the club while Jose Mourinho was in charge in 2017.

Lima was regularly tasked with keeping tabs on the club’s targets in Spain before deciding to take the job at Alaves.

Despite his relatively low profile as a player, having won a more-than respectable 64 caps as player for his country, Lima is recognised internationally for his talent-spotting abilities.

Lima has been credited with helping Brazilian youngsters find their way to Europe following his involvement in Neymar’s move to Barcelona.

He also played a key role in rescuing Coutinho from his nightmare at Inter Milan by setting up a loan spell for the midfielder at Espanyol.

It is there where he thrived under Mauricio Pochettino back in the 2011-12 season and only a year later, he joined Liverpool in an £8.5million deal.

His arrival could be crucial in helping Arsenal land Coutinho after numerous transfer links with the Barcelona star this summer.

The 29-year-old has been frozen out under Ronald Koeman and faces an uncertain future at Camp Nou after being omitted from the squad for the 4-2 win over Real Sociedad on Sunday.

The Blaugrana’s dire financial situation requires them to offload players to drastically cut their wage bill, even despite Lionel Messi’s departure and Gerard Pique’s agreement to reduce his salary.

Coutinho’s reported salary of €20m-a-year (£17m) is a problem that the Catalan giants have failed to resolve.

But the playmaker could be offered a lifeline by the Gunners who, according to Le10 Sport, were considering making an offer for the Brazil international at the beginning of the summer.

However, concerns over Coutinho’s recovery from knee surgery in April delayed their decision as to whether to make a move and they now look set to sign Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid.

But now that his rehabilitation is complete, a transfer this summer cannot be ruled out with a swap deal involving Coutinho and Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang recently mooted.

The arrival of Lima, who Coutinho is understood to still be on good terms with, will add only fuel to the fire as the former Liverpool star searches for his next destination.

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