Who: Philippe Coutinho
From Where: Barcelona
To Where: Bayern Munich
For How Much: €8.5m loan fee with €120m option to buy next summer
Grade for Bayern: B+
Grade for Barcelona: D-
Philippe Coutinho to Bayern Munich Overview
Last weekend, we wrote why Philippe Coutinho’s move to Barcelona was among the worst player-driven transfers ever.
Regardless, to be fair in actually grading the transfer, we needed a few days of perspective. Is Coutinho salvageable? Did Barcelona have any better options? Does this ultimately help or hurt their chances of landing Neymar?
Any way you slice it, that €142m Camp Nou shelled out for the little Brazilian is going to leave a mark.
Who is he?
Won’t spend too much time on this: when he was at Liverpool, Philippe Coutinho was one of the best attacking midfielders in the world. The 27 year-old Brazilian was sold to Barcelona in January 2018.
While there, he lost his form and place as a regular starter, and Liverpool went on to become one of the statistically best teams of all time.
Is the price fair?
For Bayern, if Coutinho can re-find his form, the €8.5m loan fee will be as big of a bargain as the €142m Barcelona paid was basically lighting money on fire.
What impact should we expect?
And in here lies the rub. Who knows.
The eye test showed that Coutinho for Barcelona, at least last year, wasn’t the same person he was in 2017-18. However, his counting stats and rating wasn’t that far off his career averages. Better put, he was an ok player. Unfortunately, an “ok player” isn’t the €142m world-beater Barcelona thought they bought. The fans turned on him and his confidence waned.
At the international level for his country though, Coutinho still performs at vintage levels. In six summer matches for Brazil, Coutinho tallied two goals and an assist and two Man of the Match honors.
So that creative, dynamic player is still in there.
The need for that player also exists at Bayern.
Bayern gave Coutinho the #10. That’s a good indication of where they expect him to play. James Rodriguez mostly filled that spot last season. If Coutinho is playing the #10 just off Robert Lewandowski, that’s at least a comparable to the one he played at Liverpool in 2017-18 when he enjoyed his best (half) year.
Coutinho was mostly used as a 10 with Roberto Firmino or Daniel Sturridge up top and Sadio Mane and Mo Salah flanking him. He averaged 1 g+a (7 goals, 6 assists) in his 13 domestic appearance before being transferred. He was even better in the Champions League, tallying 5 goals and 2 assists in four appearances.
While Niko Kovac could use Coutinho on the wing as well, Ivan Perisic,
Serge Gnabry, and Kingsley Coman are more likely regular options. Still, placing Coutinho on the left side and let him curl balls into Lewandowski to finish isn’t the worst idea either. Expect Kovac to tinker until he finds the best way to unlock the best version of Coutinho.
Bayern Munich (B+): Was this a panic move after a lackluster draw to Hertha to start the season? Yeah, probably. But that doesn’t make it a bad move either.
Again, this is a low-risk, high-reward gamble. You take those kinds of gambles any time you can. Coutinho, at least internationally, still has shown flashes of his elite Liverpool days.
Not a fan of the option to buy price, especially as he’ll be 28 and only with 1-2 years of pure prime football left. But that’s a bridge Bayern will happily cross if this works out well.
Barcelona (D-): What a disaster.
Remove from the equation how little value they got out of their €142m or the lack of patience in at least trying to see if a Coutinho-Griezmann-Messi line could gel. If Barcelona are as desperate to bring Neymar back as it seems, and PSG were amenable to having Coutinho as part of the package, then w-t-f Barcelona?
Coutinho left Liverpool and watched his new team meltdown in epic fashion at his old home turf in the Champions League. How fitting for him if Bayern and Barcelona face off in this year’s UCL, only for him to have a starring role in a German victory? These narratives often have a funny way of playing out. Don’t be surprised if that happens.