Despite failing to live up to a huge transfer fee and being overshadowed by Leo Messi, Philippe Coutinho can still become a Barcelona star performer

Philippe Coutinho ended a long saga when he officially signed for Barcelona a year ago, for a transfer fee of over $180 million. But his move to the Catalan giants has experienced a lot of ups and downs, and there are still doubts as to whether the Brazilian was worth the money. Despite criticism, the forward is set to fight for his place and prove that he can be a valuable asset to Barcelona.

When Barcelona signed Coutinho, it was expected that he would succeed Andrès Iniesta in central midfield, as the former Spain international was on his way out to the Chinese Super League, by the end of the season. But instead of becoming his heir, Barça manager Ernesto Valverde had other ideas in mind, as he deployed the former Liverpool hero as a left-sided attacker.

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When Coutinho played on the left, Liverpool always had a proper winger on the opposite flank, with the likes of Raheem Sterling and later on Mohamed Salah. But at Barcelona, Lionel Messi occupies the role of an internal play-maker, as he constantly roams to central positions, meaning that if Coutinho does the same on the left, the front three would become way too narrow. This is why the introduction of Ousmane Dembelé has made the attack more vivid and more versatile.

But despite that, Coutinho has still managed to put in a series of encouraging performances in Spain. Last season, he performed well in the league and was a key player in the Spanish cup, helping his side beat Sevilla in the final, as he wrote his name on the scoreboard. Likewise, Philippe’s start to the current season was quite promising, as he reached his best performances for the club towards the end of October when he scored against Real Madrid in a large 5-1 win in El Clasico. But that’s exactly when the problems started as the Seleção-man picked up a severe injury and was sidelined for weeks.

Struggling to return from injuries

Following his return, Coutinho’s performances were really poor, but it is worth noting that the Brazilian has always faced similar issues whenever he got injured at Liverpool. One of Coutinho’s major problems is his slow recovery process following injuries, because he is physically weak by nature. He needs to be at the peak of his fitness level in order to perform well. Most top stars don’t have this weakness, but it is what it is.

On the other hand, when Coutinho is at the peak of his game, he is capable of being consistent for months, and of being a big-game player as he has shown at Liverpool, at the World Cup, as well as during Lionel Messi’s injury earlier on this season. All in all, Coutinho is already on nine goals and six in all competitions – which is never too bad for someone who’s been on the sidelines for weeks.

Despite the criticism he has received, Philippe Coutinho remains a very talented player and an extremely intelligent play-maker. The sooner Barcelona deploy him in a role in central midfield, the better it will be for both parties. The Seleção star is indeed capable of turning the tables upside down.

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