The suspension of all footballing action across Europe and most other parts of the world has not dampened the rumour mill one bit. Chelsea, a club which is touted to spend big and rebuild the squad, is frequently mentioned in the same sentence as most players who are speculated to leave their respective clubs, perhaps only because there’s a higher probability of a deal. When a player is available on a cut-price deal and a club is willing to spend the cash, the rumor-mongering all adds up for media companies. Due to unrestrained hype, not all reports are reliable. Regardless, the latest name to be added to the “Chelsea shortlist” is Philippe Coutinho, who is on loan at FC Bayern Munchen from FC Barcelona.
When a player of Coutinho’s caliber is linked with Chelsea, it is fairly obvious that a buzz would start among the Chelsea community. Although Coutinho has endured a tough spell the past couple of years, one can hardly discredit his Liverpool days where he was undoubtedly one of the best players in the Premier League. He is a product of the Vasco De Gama academy and joined up with the Inter Milan first team in 2010, then aged 18. Coutinho made 47 appearances for the historic Italian club, but contributed just five goals and four assists. His half-season loan spell to Espanyol turned out to be quite fruitful, as he scored five times and bagged one assist in 16 appearances.
Liverpool signed Coutinho from Inter Milan in January 2013 and raised several eyebrows by awarding him the coveted number 10 kit, which was vacant since the departure of Joe Cole. Despite having a rocky time at Inter, Coutinho was determined to prove his worth and repay Liverpool’s faith in him. He did that without a shadow of a doubt, scoring 54 goals and further assisting 45 more in 201 appearances for the Reds, helping Liverpool reach the Champions League final. Jurgen Klopp had finally managed to wake the sleeping monster. Coutinho’s trademark move was cutting in on his right and shooting from outside the box – top bins every single time. He eventually joined Barcelona in January 2018 (at that time becoming the second most expensive player in the world after Neymar), as the Spanish club continued to look for the Brazilian phenom’s replacement following his move to PSG.
Having achieved his dream move, Coutinho’s promotion to super-stardom was complete. He hit the ground running at one of the biggest clubs in the world, and everyone assumed he could only get better from there. But, it all fell apart. Coutinho stated in an interview that he joined Barcelona to win the UCL. Ironically, his former club Liverpool staged a stunning comeback at Anfield and went on to crown themselves the kings of Europe. Meanwhile, Coutinho’s relationship with Barcelona as well as fans continued to deteriorate. Soon, the damage was beyond repair, and he joined German champions Bayern on loan in a bid to reignite his fading career.
In his first interview at Bayern, he openly called Barca a “finished club”, and stated that he wishes to stay in Munich rather than return to Spain upon the conclusion of his loan deal. However, having managed just over 2000 minutes of football this season, Coutinho could soon be looking for a new challenge elsewhere. Although he boasted nine goals and eight assists this season, his playing time gradually reduced under Hans Flick, the interim coach for the Bavarians. Coutinho has made his intentions of not returning to Barcelona very clear. Chelsea could provide a new home for him, and here is how he could fit in the team:
Number 10 Role
Frank Lampard has not been very consistent in terms of his formation, but the 4-2-3-1 has been utilized on most occasions this season. Mount got the nod in most games, and Coutinho could challenge him for that position. The Brazilian is more experienced, is a better dribbler and is a fantastic long-shot taker. He could offer a new dimension, and could also bring us some of his creativity. With the number of games we have across all competitions, Coutinho would be an excellent option in the squad and would permit us to finally move on from Ross Barkley.
During his time under Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona, Coutinho often started on the wing. This enabled him to cut in on his right foot and cause some serious damage to the opposition. However, with Valverde preferring to play a 4-4-2 diamond with Messi and Suarez upfront, it resulted in an extra defensive burden on Coutinho. This restricted his best attributes, and led to his decision to leave Barcelona. At Chelsea, he could rival Pulisic, Hudson-Odoi and Willian (if he extends his contract) for the left-wing spot, but the left-wing is not even his best position.
Number 8 role
If we analyze Frank Lampard’s style of play at Derby, we can understand that he prefers to play a 4-3-3 with two energetic midfielders who relentlessly press the opposition. Looking at the game against Everton, we noticed that he played Gilmour at the base of the three-man midfield, with Mount and Barkley ahead of him. This game was one of our best performances this season, and huge credit goes to Mount and Barkley who both had excellent games. Coutinho could play this role next season, should Lampard decide to play a 4-3-3. Lampard’s style of play is similar to Klopp’s, and Coutinho often played on the left side of the midfield three, with Salah, Firmino and Mane up front. This was a deadly combination and often resulted in the obliteration of the opposition. Such a similarity could bring back the days when Coutinho would send a shiver down the spine of goalkeepers every time he has the ball around the box. Hence, if given the opportunity, Chelsea should be all over signing Coutinho.
The reports linking us to him also state that he would be on a loan deal, which is low-risk. If we could somehow procure a loan deal with an option to buy, that would be fantastic business, and in my opinion ludicrous to refuse. You may have reservations about him, but saying that we shouldn’t sign him because we have Mount, Loftus-Cheek or even Gilmour is borderline delusional. This is a football club looking to get back on track of being one of the best and most feared in the world, and depth is an absolute necessity. Just think about this situation: if we are trailing in a match and need a substitute to change the game, would you rather have Barkley or Coutinho?
Edited by: Dan