Do Liverpool need Everton ace more than Coutinho?

Date published: Thursday 30th March 2017 10:39

With finite resources available to Liverpool, Dave Tindall poses the dirty question in this week’s Red Letter about whether the club should cash in on prize asset Philippe Coutinho this summer.

A question to fellow Liverpool fans: Would you sell Coutinho to Barcelona if they put £65million on the table this summer?

And, as a follow up, with Saturday’s Merseyside derby in mind, would it be a smart move to re-invest it in an out-and-out striker such as Everton’s Romelu Lukaku?

I actually feel a bit ashamed of myself, dirty even, even thinking about cashing in on one of our finest talents. If Jurgen Klopp is trying to build and shape a squad that can challenge for big prizes, getting rid of one of his star men would seem like a stupid move.

And yet, I’m still trying to work out just how good Coutinho is….

On the evidence of the early part of this season, it looked as if he was moving onto the next level. Perhaps not the overused world-class status but certainly into one of the very elite players in the Premier League.

Before he hobbled off against Sunderland in November, the little magician had registered five goals and five assists in 13 Premier League games and also netted and set up another in the EFL Cup win over Derby.

Since coming back, he’s scored a single goal and not contributed any assists in eight games. He’s looked a shadow of his early-season self, struggling to find rhythm and being substituted by Klopp after 80, 60 and 73 minutes respectively in our last three games.

Philippe Coutinho: Branded a magician by Brazil boss

It’s obvious to blame the injury but, in the yellow of Brazil, Coutinho has been purring.

The another night against Paraguay, he scored a beauty, cutting in from the right, playing a sharp one-two and finding the bottom corner with an unerring left-foot strike from just outside the box.

There are two ways of looking at this. On the positive side, forget the inconvenience of having to fly him (and Roberto Firmino) back on a private jet so they have a chance of being ready for Everton and celebrate the fact that Brazil may have done us a huge favour and played him back into form. A goal like that must have been a huge confidence boost….

The downside is why is he shining in yellow but a pale imitation of his usual self in red? The conspiracy theory is that he’s had his head turned by the interest from Barcelona. And could you blame him?

A story in the Spanish press this week contained quotes from Neymar apparently trying to lure his countryman to the Nou Camp. Speaking in Mundo Deportivo, Neymar said: “I would sign him. He’s the player I see playing in Barcelona.

“I believe Philippe Coutinho is a player that would totally fit Barcelona.”

Has Neymar been chipping away at Coutinho during the international break? Has former Anfield team-mate Luis Suarez perhaps had a word too?

There’s the little matter of where exactly would he play. How is Coutinho going to break up the trio of Neymar, Messi and Suarez? Or do Barca realise they need star-quality back-up to avoid the dips they’ve suffered this season when the Catalans seem to roll out the ‘big three’ even in midweek Cup games. I’ve also seen suggestions that they see Coutinho in a slightly deeper role, filling in for Andres Iniesta when the great man eventually bows out.

In the Brazil match in midweek, Coutinho was positioned on the right of a three to accommodate Neymar on the left. That’s opposite to the way he lines up for us but, on the evidence of his stunning goal, it clearly worked. Maybe Brazil boss Tite has shown Barca the future.

Any Reds fans who simply won’t entertain the idea of Coutinho leaving will call up the quotes he delivered a couple of months ago when signing a £150,000-a-week contract to become the club’s highest paid player.

“You know the club is very ambitious, the players and the manager all are focused,” said Coutinho. “Everyone believes in that. Of course we believe we can win titles under this manager – we are confident that will happen.

“Like I said before I have signed because the manager is a winner, and everyone believes in him.

“I believe in what he does, and everyone inside the dressing room believes he will take this team to titles – that is why I signed a new contract, and that is what we want to do.”

Coutinho has always come across as a good, solid, loyal family man who really does love Liverpool. But this is football in 2017. If the price is right…..

Some stories have suggested that Barca would offer us a cash-plus-player deal and use Croatian midfield star Ivan Rakitic as bait.

Ivan Rakitic: Barca star could be part of a swap deal

I’d rather have Suarez back, or even Messi would do, but Rakitic is certainly a top quality midfielder. Then again, he’s 28 and Coutinho is 24 so it’s not a very age-friendly swap.

Part of the equation is trying to imagine just what Coutinho could become. He has time on his side to develop into that world-class talent but he does seem to go through these lengthy dips in form.

Great player that he is, the concern I have about him is his obvious lack of pace. Playing in his position, can you really soar to the highest peaks without a rapid turn of foot?

If Coutinho had Sadio Mane’s pace he’d certainly be a potential world-beater. Mane is so sure of his ability to outpace opponents that he does this thing where, from a standing start, he simply knocks the ball in front of him and chases after it, knowing fine well that he’ll get to it first. He doesn’t need five step-overs or a series of body-swerves; he can simply destroy opponents with pure pace.

Think of the very top attacking players and they all have that explosiveness. Ronaldo, Bale, Neymar, Sanchez, Aubemeyang.

And dare I say, Lukaku too.

It’s pretty unrealistic to expect the Belgian to cross Stanley Park and join us but is there a jet-heeled goalscoring attacker out there who would benefit the team more than Coutinho?

Mane racks up plenty but imagine adding his goals to those from a prolific striker. Yes, we score bundles already but what about that run of form post-January when it dried up and teams parked the bus?

Being honest, I do have my doubts as to whether Coutinho can hit the very top and it’s mainly because of that turn of pace, or lack of it.

Philippe Coutinho: Has not had a great 2017 for Liverpool so far

Truth be told, the best-case scenario is that he stays and we add more class around him. But in LFC’s current world of seemingly finite finances, pocketing huge money and then spending it on a world-class striker or world-class defender could, reluctantly, be the way to go.

 

Dave Tindall

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