Philippe Coutinho to FC Barcelona- it was the dream transfer of every Barcelona fan. And why not? He played spectacularly at Liverpool for five seasons and was achieving great heights of success. His playing style was similar to the one played at Camp Nou. Barcelona noticed the rise of the Brazilian maestro and repeatedly started making offers for him, but The Reds kept on rejecting them.
Still, the Blaugrana continued making offers and finally, Liverpool accepted a deal of reportedly £142m. It was a match made in heaven, as the player was finally coming to his dream club. The fee made him the costliest player in the club's history, and third most expensive of all time. People started calling him as the replacement of Andres Iniesta.
The fans celebrated his arrival as they expected him to take Barcelona to the next level. The Brazilian had spread his magic in the Premier League and was termed as one of the best midfielders in the world. Now with a team like Barcelona, he could have easily become the best midfielder in the world.
He had a terrific start in his half-season at Barcelona, with him scoring 10 goals from 22 appearances for the Catalans. But he failed to live up to the high expectations of supporters and the club. He has scored only 10 goals in all competitions this season from 40 appearances. He has often found himself struggling, out of form. He seems like a shadow of the man who terrorised defenders in the EPL for fun.
His teammate Ousmane Dembele has won the favour of the manager and the fans instead. Because of this, he has found himself being subbed on to play the last minutes, or is benched in favor of other deserving players. Also, some impatient fans have started suggesting that he should be sold off, but the club and his teammates have shown immense faith in him, stating that he is going to be at his best and just needs some time. But time is what the former Liverpool player is short of.
We are quickly approaching the business end of the football season and this is the time where players need to step up and play for everything. While there are many reasons why Coutinho is struggling, one of the most prominent is that he doesn't enjoy the freedom he was used to in Liverpool. And this is partially true.
Barcelona boasts of one of the best squads in the world, they also have arguably the best player in the world right now, Lionel Messi. With all due respect to Coutinho, Messi deserves the free roam position in the team. Why? Simply put, he is the best for that position.
From the Pep Guardiola days, Messi is playing the in the free roam position, and has absolutely thrived in it. He starts from the right wing, but as the game passes, on he moves to the centre and drops into the midfield to receive the ball. This is what Coutinho used to do at Liverpool, albeit the only difference is that he started from the left wing.
Coutinho's performances this season have been mediocre. On some nights he gives away the ball too easily, while on some other nights he is absolutely unplayable. Try as you might but you can't snatch the ball from him. The one thing that Coutinho lacked apart from freedom was consistency.
Barcelona are facing an injury crisis, as Suarez is out for 2 weeks due to an ankle injury, Dembele is out for 3-4 weeks due to a hamstring injury. Also, Messi will be out for 6 days, including the match against Espanyol, as Valverde won't be pushing his best player and further risk him. So Barcelona's famous trio is injured and only one of the starting forward remains, and that is Coutinho. He will be expected to play alongside Malcom and Kevin Prince Boateng.
Valverde would now grant the free roam position to Coutinho. He will finally have his desired freedom as he could replicate his performances from his Liverpool days. He could now make runs, make passes, drop into midfield and whatever the position demands. But with this, he would also carry the hopes of fans, as he would become the main forward at FC Barcelona for the time being.
Coutinho has to play at his best. His team, his teammates, his fans all need him at the moment, and he needs to step up and prove his price tag. Mark my words, he is going to remind everybody why he is one of the best midfielders in the world.Published 27 Mar 2019, 02:06 IST