Jurgen Klopp allowed the “best player in the Premier League to depart Liverpool” when they sold Philippe Coutinho for a club-record fee in January 2018.
The Brazilian star was allowed to make his dream switch to Barcelona that winter following a lengthy chase. After days of negotiations, sporting director Michael Edwards played a blinder in securing Liverpool a deal that could have fetched a whopping £142m. That deal made Coutinho the third most costly player of all time.
In departing Liverpool, many felt he would leave behind a giant hole in their side. Coutinho was very much the heartbeat of Klopp’s Liverpool side, scoring 54 goals and assisting 38 more in a golden 201 game Anfield career.
However, rather than look back in anger, Liverpool invested the money wisely, securing the signing of first Virgil van Dijk. Alisson Becker was to follow in the coming months and the two men would play significant roles in Liverpool winning the 2019 Champions League.
The Premier League title arrived the following season – further vindicating Liverpool’s decision to cash in.
The move to Catalonia, though, soon turned sour for Coutinho. After struggling to impress, he was loaned out to Bayern Munich for the 2019/20 season, before being afforded a fresh start.
Again that failed to see Coutinho produce his consistent best.
Jurgen Klopp lost a ‘breathtaking talent’
Reflecting on his career, pundit Micah Richards reckons Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool sold the best player in England when Coutinho departed Anfield.
In compiling their list of top 10 No 10’s to play in the Premier League, host Gary Lineker also had warm praise for Coutinho.
“Coutinho, he’s a breathtakingly talented footballer. He didn’t quite do it at Barcelona though did he? We saw him at Liverpool, bending them into the top corner,” Lineker told BBC Match of the Day Top 10 Podcast.
“Sometimes when players go to a monster of a football club, it can be a little bit too much for you. People think there is a lot of pressure on players in clubs in this country. I got off to a good start [at Barcelona] and quite enjoyed that side of things. The best part of my game was my mental strength. To understand what it is like there, it is so much bigger than anything here.”
Coutinho to snub Aston Villa for Arsenal this summer?
Coutinho may choose Arsenal over Aston Villa this summer as Barcelona exit looks likely
And Richards added: “I’m surprised it didn’t work out for him though, I thought it would have been perfect for him. When he left [Liverpool], he was the best player in the league wasn’t he?”
Battle for Philippe Coutinho heats up
Now back in the Premier League with Aston Villa, Coutinho is beginning to show his true colours again.
So far in his 10 Premier League appearances for the Villans, Coutinho has four goals and three assists.
Indeed, Villa have made no secret of their desire to sign him permanently, with Steven Gerrard understandly keen.
Arsenal, however, are seemingly lurking, with Gerrard conceding that a permanent deal is far from certain.
The player himself though appears to be enjoying his football again.
“I believe I have been adapting well to this return to English football. It’s a league I know and I feel good playing. In addition, I was very well received by everyone and this has helped me a lot,” he told Globo Esporte.
“We [with Gerrard] had a conversation that made me feel very comfortable and motivated. He talked about the Villa project, the goals, what he expected of me and it was something I was looking for too. I believe we made a good decision and things are going well.”