Aston Villa

Aston Villa

Premier League • England

Aston Villa agree exit of high-profile star in deal with intriguing option after late hijack attempt

Douglas Luiz, Philippe Coutinho, Lucas Digne, Aston Villa, May 2022

Aston Villa are offloading Philippe Coutinho to Al-Duhail in Qatar on a loan deal with an interesting clause, according to reports from his native Brazil.

Coutinho was a big-name signing for Aston Villa when his former Liverpool colleague Steven Gerrard lured him in from Barcelona back in January 2022. However, since making his initial loan move permanent that summer, he has only scored once in the Premier League.

Less fancied by Unai Emery, Coutinho could now complete a departure from Aston Villa beyond the end of the English transfer window. Clubs in Qatar are still able to register new players until September 18, which has led to Al-Duhail closing in on his capture.

According to UOL, the Qatari champions, who are based in Doha, have agreed to sign Coutinho on loan for a season. There is no mention of any option or obligation for a permanent transfer, but interestingly, there will be a clause enabling them to extend his loan for second season should they wish.

Coutinho remains under contract with Aston Villa until 2026, so would return ahead of the final year of his deal if Al-Duhail took up their option.

The Al-Duhail squad also contains players such as ex-Sunderland forward Isaac Lihadji, former Portugal international Ruben Semedo and recent Southampton midfielder Ibrahima Diallo. They are managed by former Chelsea, Inter and Argentina striker Hernan Crespo.

Crespo was actually at Inter as a player when the Nerazzurri signed Coutinho in 2008. However, they never shared a pitch, since Coutinho didn’t debut for Inter until 2010, a year after Crespo had moved on to Genoa.

Besiktas battled for Coutinho transfer too

Despite the widespread rumours about a move to the Middle East, was not a foregone conclusion that Coutinho would join Al-Duhail. The report from UOL has revealed that Besiktas made a late attempt to keep him in Europe by taking him to the Turkish Super Lig.

After all, the transfer window in Turkey is open until September 15. However, TEAMtalk revealed in February that Coutinho had already turned down a winter move to Turkey with Galatasaray.

This time around, Al-Duhail have beaten Besiktas to the deal after Aston Villa accepted their advances. In fact, the playmaker has already arrived in Qatar to finalise the move.

Coutinho will therefore be playing outside Europe for the first time since Inter loaned him back to Vasco da Gama in his native Brazil between 2008 and 2010.

He has since represented the likes of Liverpool, Barcelona and Bayern Munich with varying degrees of success. His most productive spell was certainly with Liverpool, for whom he scored 54 goals in 201 appearances.

In contrast, his output for Aston Villa has been just six goals from 43 appearances. At the age of 31, he is now ready to embark on a different kind of challenge in the Qatar Stars League, as well as the AFC Champions League.