So. Yeah. That saying about the grass being greener…
Philippe Coutinho has been loaned from Barcelona to Bayern Munich. His much maligned Camp Nou watch has come to an end.
Let’s look back at what may go down as one of the all-time most regrettable transfers that a player has wanted ever.
Philippe Coutinho at Liverpool
January 30th, 2013.
Philippe Coutinho joins Liverpool from Inter Milan for an absurdly low (in hindsight) £8.5 million transfer fee. He gradually begins to feature at Anfield. He quickly becomes a regular starter. By 2016-17, he’s among the EPL’s best midfielders, tallying 13 goals and 7 assists for the season.
Naturally, Barcelona comes calling. The siren’s song. The Catalans. Who could resist?
Liverpool convince Coutinho to stick around. Jurgen Klopp tells him if he stays at Anfield they’ll build a statue in his honor. Coutinho though wasn’t having it.
Still, he remains a pro’s pro. In 2017-18, Liverpool have one of the most exciting attacks in the Premier League and Coutinho is the engine.
Salah. Mane. Firmino. Coutinho. Unstoppable.
He tops his all-time WhoScored rating, pushing past 8.00 domestically and even better in the UCL.
Barcelona want him even more. The feeling is mutual. He’s sold.
£142million. Dream fulfilled.
So what happened was…
Except then Liverpool spend that Coutinho money on Virgil van Dijk. And they start tearing up the Champions League. Barcelona (without Coutinho) bow out in humiliating fashion to Roma.
Liverpool, having spent that Coutinho money on VVD, destroy Roma in the UCL semis and make the Champions League finals.
Still, it felt like both parties, Coutinho and Liverpool, were better off.
And then Liverpool spent that Coutinho money on fellow Brazilian Alisson. Not to mention fellow Brazilian Fabinho. And something magical happened. Faithful Kopites embraced this squad as no fan-base has celebrated their team before. Every week Anfield transformed into Whoville, with Scousers singing their “Fah who foraze!” (#YNWA) and turning soccer grinches into true believers.
Liverpool finished the 2018-19 Premier League season with the third highest domestic point total ever.
In Spain, Coutinho’s Barcelona won La Liga. However, Philippe was frequently booed by Camp Nou faithful. He was scorned. He wasn’t starting. Confidence lost. Form fallen. The wheels were falling off for Philippe.
And then the Champions League semis happened.
Barcelona enjoyed a xG anomaly by beating Liverpool 3-0 at Camp Nou in Leg 1.
With Manchester City bottling again in the UCL quarters, whoever won the Liverpool-Barca battle was going to be the presumptive champion of Europe.
Barcelona traveled to Liverpool for their presumed victory lap.
Coutinho watched his current club lose in the most memorable and celebratory (for Liverpool) and painful (for Barcelona) fashion imaginable. He watched from his old home turf. He watched as the fans who once showered him with love had moved on. They were better off without him. Coutinho returned to his new home to a showering of even louder boos.
That’s going to leave a mark…
We wrote at the time:
Just as an aside–has anyone had a worse transfer ever in the history of soccer than Coutinho? Like, that has to damage his psyche forever, right? You whine your way out of a great situation at Anfield, go to Barcelona and get booed off the pitch every game. You watch your former club get much better after you leave, then go on to lose a Champions League game in the most epic of spectacular meltdowns in front of the home crowd you spurned. And your former team goes on to win the biggest soccer competition in the world after embarrassing you on your old home field. It’s like he dumped a girl, but that girl became a super model overnight and dated the world’s biggest celebrity who is also hung like an elephant and then you were forced to watch them have sex right in front of you while her family stood behind you and laughed at you the whole time.
Except, it did kinda get worse.
Coutinho was exiled to Bayern Munich. Another team his old squad, Liverpool, exiled from the 2018-19 UCL.
Coutinho reportedly was open to returning to Anfield. It didn’t happen. Even though the Reds could use an attacking midfielder. Even though most Kopites would’ve begrudgingly welcomed the return.
The hits just keep on coming.
Maybe Coutinho finds his old spark and glory at Bayern. That would actually be a salvageable ending to this story. Sometime things don’t work out, and he didn’t do anything to deserve this downfall.
But sometimes, actually always, you should listen to Klopp. The grass in Spain is beautiful, but it’s not always as green.