Manchester United should pursue Philippe Coutinho transfer on one condition
“Stay here and they will end up building a statue in your honour. Go somewhere else, to Barcelona, to Bayern Munich, to Real Madrid and you will be just another player. Here you can be something more.”
That was Jurgen Klopp’s message to Philippe Coutinho when his long-term future at Liverpool was unclear.
Coutinho would ignore Klopp’s advice and complete his long-awaited move to Barcelona to link up with the likes of Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi in January 2018.
However, just two years later, he wants to return to the Premier League.
“After the Champions League is finished, and whatever happens, then we’ll sit down,” his agent Kia Joorabchian told talkSPORT when discussing his client’s future. “It could be that Barcelona is the ultimate destination.
“He loves the Premier League, but the finances and the numbers and the situation of COVID are going to play a big part.
“He’s a big player with big numbers.”
Coutinho may have lifted two Spanish titles during his time with the Blaugrana but it’s undeniable his stock has fallen.
The Brazilian was shipped out on loan to Bayern Munich last season where he started just 15 league games on his way to collecting another league winners medal.
As Joorabchian noted, Barcelona will struggle to offload the 28-year-old this summer given they paid £130million to Liverpool for his services and clubs are currently facing the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward admitted that the Reds are not immune to the financial ramifications of the global crisis. Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho remains a priority target but United view their demands as “unrealistic” given the current situation and the two clubs have been unable to reach an agreement over his valuation thus far.
While a permanent move for Coutinho is out of the question, United should give serious consideration to signing the former Liverpool star on loan, provided Barcelona will cover the majority of his wage demands.
Sancho would be the final piece of the puzzle in the United forward line but more squad depth is needed to bridge the gap to rivals Manchester City and Liverpool.
Jack Grealish remains a target but Aston Villa’s negotiating position has been strengthened by beating the drop on the final day of the Premier League season. The club have billionaire owners and have stressed they are under no pressure to sell their club captain.
Coutinho could have a similar impact at a fraction of the cost.
The 28-year-old can cover a variety of positions, comfortable on either wing or as the lone attacking midfielder. The quality drop-off in the final third when Bruno Fernandes isn’t on the pitch is evident and Coutinho could provide the spark the Portuguese adds when in the side.
Coutinho has been more productive in the final third than all of United’s current attackers bar Fernandes this season. The Brazil international has averaged 0.72 key passes per 90 minutes for Bayern, more than Anthony Martial (0.49), Marcus Rashford (0.52), Mason Greenwood (0.29) and Daniel James (0.22). Fernandes, for comparison, has averaged 1.03 per 90 for the Reds.
He also leads the way in progressive passes (forward passes that attempt to advance a team significantly closer to the opposition goal). Coutinho has averaged 7.78 progressive passes per 90 – significantly more than Martial (1.86), Rashford (4.82), Greenwood (2.54) and James (2.81).
Many times during his spell in England Coutinho proved to be the match winner for Liverpool. United witnessed his talents first-hand during the Europa League last 16 clash back in 2016 when the winger breezed past Guillermo Varela before lobbing the ball over the head of David de Gea.
Should Barcelona be willing to take on the majority of his wage demands and if Coutinho is keen, United could save themselves millions to put towards Sancho this summer.