In the last days of July 2017, the representative Kia Joorabchian received at his house in London a Philippe Coutinho along with his family to later welcome Robert Fernández and Raúl Sanllehí, then technical secretary and director of the football area of Barcelona, respectively. It was the key meeting to negotiate the transfer of the Brazilian to the Camp Nou. "We want you to be the relief of Iniesta in the center of the field", they told the player. Although then there were all kinds of swerves in the negotiation because Liverpool refused to give him the transfer request, In January 2018 the agreement was closed, which meant the most expensive transfer in the history of the Barcelona. But the performance of the player, at the moment, is not according to its price nor is it the relief of Iniesta.
It turns out that Valverde was not clear from the beginning that Coutinho was a midfielder, even though from the sports area they insisted that the plan outlined went through the 4-3-3 with Coutinho as a relief Iniesta and with Dembélé as the opposite extreme to Messi. "But the coach, worried that his ends were not coming back, preferred the 4-4-2 defense with Coutinho as a spring for the band", they reveal from the Barça offices. "He can play in both positions," the coach deciphered in public, when he exchanged it for demarcation. But with the arrival of Arthur and the firmness to keep Rakitic, Valverde preferred to put him as an attacker. Although it does not work.
It turns out that Coutinho played his best matches in the past year. But in this does not burn, too intermittent and far from being the leader that is assumed when other stars are missing Leo Messi or Luis Suárez. "In summer it came pretty bad in the physical", they reveal from the sports city; "A bit overweight, no rhythm or spark, so it was decided to draw a personalized plan." And, when he started to be well, as he showed in the European duel against Inter, he got injured. "Vuelta a empezar", regret from the club, convinced that when he reaches the state optimally will be the footballer who left jaw to the step of Anfield.
But Coutinho is still a top. "Sometimes he plays for the left, sometimes for the right and in the same game he can also go through the center of the field. They make him a little dizzy, "they tell from the player's surroundings. "Besides," adds another voice from Barcelona; "It is not easy to adapt to the demands of our football. And less if you arrive from the Liverpool, where a much more anarchic game is practiced ". More than anything because Klopp likes chaos, the constant movements of their forwards to avoid that the rivals fix the marks and generate spaces that should take advantage of the second line, as Coutinho did. But that's not Barca's proposal and the Camp Nou fans have already been impatient with the Brazilian – he whistled at the last game – who does not offer anything new and who sometimes seems disconnected from the game, as if he does not out the thing. "People forget that they have already played great games at Barcelona", they lament from the club. "He comes out of an injury and has played two games in four days", defended Valverde after beating Villarreal.
Matter of time?
But with five goals (one every 247 minutes) and an assist, Coutinho does not meet expectations. "It's not forward. He was signed to supply Iniesta because he guarantees possession and because he has quality ", they show from the offices of La Masia; "And the attackers at Barça are much more specific, with speed and overflow." From the sports area they discuss that opinion: "He can play in the middle against smaller teams because he is very good, but he is clearly an attacker because his best characteristics are dribbling and shooting, and because he does not excel defensively but in his talent to create danger".
Debate, in any case, sterile because Ernesto Valverde He has already decided. But all agree: "Your best version will arrive, it's a matter of time". Only Coutinho must answer, which at the moment has not been clarified.
Although with Dembélé broke the bank -105 fixed million plus 40 in variables-, the Barça emptied the portfolio with Coutinho because it paid 120 million [10 de ellos los adelantó el propio jugador brasileño porque el club se negó a pasar de los 110] plus 40 in variables, which go through five million for each block of 25 matches as a starter (up to a maximum of 20 million), plus another 10 for two qualifications for the Champions League and five more for the European title. A price that demands performance. "You have to demand him because he is a very technical player who must mark the differences. We can not just depend on Messi, "they say from the Barça club.