How Philippe Coutinho's career could pan out after loan stint at Bayern Munich
The attraction between FC Barcelona and South American footballers is quite obvious for all to see. Right from time, players from the continent have always favoured a move to the Catalan club at certain stages of their careers.
In January 2018, Philippe Coutinho decided to follow the footsteps of former Selecao superstars including Romario, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho by leaving for Barcelona. He joined midway through the season and bagged 10 goals and six assists for the Blaugrana as they completed the 2017/2018 campaign with a domestic double. That raised expectations higher for Coutinho's future at the club.
However, he couldn't maintain that level of performance in the subsequent campaign. The Brazilian recorded just 11 goals and five assists in all competitions and consequently fell out of favour with the Camp Nou faithful. A poor conclusion to the term was followed by a loan move to Bayern Munich during the summer.
The playmaker is gradually coming back to life at the Allianz Arena. He's found the back of the net seven times in 24 appearances for the German champions across all competitions. He's also set up eight goals for his teammates. Bayern have the opportunity to sign him permanently at the end of the season by triggering the purchase option included in his deal.
However, there's still a lot more Coutinho could do. Although he's impressed in patches, his performances have not been convincing enough for Bayern to pay Barcelona their asking price of £120 million, which means the Bavarians may opt against tying him to a permanent deal at season's end. That implies he could end up returning to Barca at the conclusion of the term. Would he be able to make a difference this time?
On the good side of it, you never can tell. Coutinho could return and make up for his past failures at Camp Nou. The Brazilian's spirit has been boosted in the few months he's spent in the Bundesliga.
He reminded us of his class with a hat-trick and two assists in the 6-1 drubbing of Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga last month. Likewise, his midfield masterclass in the Champions League game against Crvena Zvezda in September.
Coupling that with Ernesto Valverde's sacking, there are reasons to be optimistic. Coutinho thrives in an attacking system. With his intelligence, ability to influence attacking proceedings, and goalscoring exploits, he could be the missing piece Quique Setien needs to light things up at Camp Nou. Although results do not favour the former Real Betis manager at present, it is certain that the club wouldn't replace him with a defensive-minded coach even if they are to part ways.
Nevertheless, there are more negatives to the prospect than positives. It is difficult to see where the Brazilian would be accommodated in the team. Arthur Melo, Frenkie de Jong, and Sergio Busquets have made the midfield their home, with the likes of Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal and Ruqui Puig also fighting for minutes.
The attack is overcrowded too. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and youngster Ansu Fati have closed up the attacking slots. With the likes of Neymar and Lautaro Martinez also linked with a move to the club, it only gets tighter.
As such, leaving permanently could be the best option for the attacker. Following his improvement in the Bundesliga, more clubs would surely be interested in signing him. The likes of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain have all shown interest in the past.
It remains to be seen how things would pan out at the end of the campaign. Would he be granted a permanent deal by Bayern or is a return to Camp Nou his next movement?
The ball, at the moment, lies in the Bavarian's court.Published 11 Feb 2020, 18:27 IST