With Andrès Iniesta announcing his departure from Barcelona after 22 years at the club, Philippe Coutinho is ready to step up to fill the Spaniard’s shoes
The departure of footballing great Andrès Iniesta from Barcelona will certainly impact the career of recent signing Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian was recruited in order to succeed the Spanish maestro, and took advantage of the past few months to train with the Spaniard and learn off him which facilitated his adaption to the philosophy of the club. But an era has just ended, with the 33-year-old announcing his decision to the public.
There is no doubt that Coutinho has already learned a lot since completing his major transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona in January, whether it be from Iniesta or other greats in the ranks of the Catalan giants such as Lionel Messi. However, with every positive, there was another negative. Many pundits have noted that it seems very difficult to get the best out of Coutinho and Iniesta at the same time, as the Spain international operates on the favorite flank of the Brazilian, meaning that the latter would have to be deployed on the right-hand side of the pitch where he is less effective – despite still showing moments of brilliance, due to his overall quality, first touch and technique.
Starting from next season, Coutinho will be allowed to occupy his favorite position which is set to be left vacant. In England, Philippe had been mostly used in a more advanced role in the front three, but from now on, he would have a more obvious midfield role where he will be demanded to help control the tempo of the game, concentrate on his passing skills and ability to maintain possession under pressure.
While the departure of Iniesta is heartbreaking news for football fans, if we are interpreting the direct consequences on Coutinho on an individual basis, then it will definitely help him prove himself at the club. I for one do not believe that a great player needs to play a secondary role for an all-time great for three or four years before he finally gets a primary role.
The couple of months that the Brazilian had with Don Andrès should have been enough to learn from his experience and take some precious advice, while game-time in his ideal position will be the best possible way for Coutinho to move forward – this is my total conviction. Therefore, we can expect him to show an even better level next season, as he would have been at the club for a longer time and would have had the opportunity to feature in a full pre-season campaign.
With the World Cup edging closer, it is still unclear whether Brazil boss Tite will use Coutinho on the right flank in the FIFA World Cup, or whether Willian and Douglas Costa’s impressive form and Renato Augusto’s drop in level would mean that Adenor Bacchi would have no choice but to integrate one of the wingers to the starting lineup and generate room for the Barça-man in midfield. This would be the optimal solution for a footballer who is set to be promoted to the top table at Barcelona.