Ernesto Valverde has moved to defend the struggles of Philippe Coutinho amid claims some of his Barcelona teammates don’t care if the club opted to sell him to Manchester United this summer.
The Brazilian has yet to flourish at the Camp Nou since his £142m move from Liverpool last winter.
The 26-year-old has scored just six goals in 28 appearances this season, but he has not scored since October and speculation has emerged about his future.
Last January Coutinho penned a contract until 2023 and he has a €400m release clause, but that has not stopped talk of a move with Don Balon recently claiming Barca would sell Coutinho if they received an offer of €150m.
Liverpool have also been mentioned as suitors to re-sign their former star, while Don Balon on Wednesday stated Coutinho has been the subject of a €100m offer from Chelsea this month as they look to replace Eden Hazard, who is being tipped to sign for Real Madrid this summer.
The player had another evening of frustration on Sunday as he missed two missed two clear chances in the 2-0 win at Girona that maintained their lead at the summit of LaLiga.
Coutinho missed two one-on-ones – the first saved by goalkeeper Yassine Bounou and the second cleared off the line by a defender.
To add to the Brazilian’s frustration, reports in the Spanish media afterwards claimed Barca stars were now ‘deliberately not passing to Coutinho’, while so low is the player’s confidence that some senior stars would not be against his departure this summer.
However, Valverde has come out fighting over Coutinho’s form and insisted the goals, and good form, will come if he continues to play as he does.
“What I like about Coutinho is that he’s daring and he’s always prepared to take the opposition on,” Valverde said when asked whether he was worried about the former Liverpool man’s form.
“He makes things happen. After that, sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don’t. He’s had good chances and the fact that he’s getting into those positions one-on-one with the goalkeeper is really good.
“He’s not converted those chances this time – but he will.”
Barca toiled for long periods in general against Girona, with the introduction of Arthur helping to turn the tide in their favour.
“We were having problems because Girona were pressing really high,” Valverde added. “Sometimes we weren’t able to break through their press – and losing the ball in those positions led to clear chances for them.
“When Arthur comes on, he has the capacity to keep the ball. They were also playing with 10 men at that point, so it was already a question of controlling the ball and looking for the free man. Arthur’s good at that.”
Barca face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey quarterfinal second leg on Wednesday, and are 2-0 down from the first leg.
“We’re going to focus on recovering and start thinking about Wednesday. Our intention is to get through,” Valverde continued. “The other day we made changes in the first leg thinking of the Girona game.
“We have three games this week in six days, with a really important one against Valencia on Saturday, but it’s true that what interests us now is the Copa del Rey.”
Meanwhile, Monday’s European papers suggest United have already lined up two impressive deals for the summer.
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