As far as transfers go, this one needs to go down as an absolute howler.
In case you missed it, Philippe Coutinho has now signed for Aston Villa on a permanent deal believed to cost in the region of around £17 million.
Nothing short of remarkable business from the West Midlands club.
Not only has their manager (Steven Gerrard) got a good idea of what makes the Brazilian playmaker tick, but his style of play – best shown during that Invincible season at Rangers thus far – seems to suit his new signing’s free-flowing, evasive style behind the striker.
Having said that, there are some fans who will remember a different player than the one that will be wearing an Aston Villa shirt moving forward.
And others who will want to forget Philippe Coutinho altogether …
10 points to Griffindor if you can guess who’s who!
The start of Philippe Coutinho’s career was a pretty enjoyable one.
After impressing in a number of bit-part, cameo-focused seasons as Inter before an Espanyol loan-induced revival forced his way into the first team in the early 2010’s.
Even then, he struggled to get the game time he wanted.
That is, until Liverpool signalled an interest in 2013.
With a fee standing at under £10 million and considering the exponential growth he enjoyed with the Anfield giants, there’s fair cause to describe this deal as one of the greatest in Premier League history to have occurred in the typically tough January period.
Operating in that Number 10 position (with the same number sprawled across his back), he flourished working in the gaps which benefited from his arsenal of creative skills.
The vision. The invention. Those long-range strikes.
The kid had it all.
At the time, Liverpool weren’t exactly the force they are considered now. In fact, Philippe Coutinho can retrospectively be looked at as an eye through the looking glass of what they would eventually become under Klopp.
Until then – and with the greatest of respect – they became a little bit of a selling club.
As the name would suggest, that refers to a club used to selling players rather than keeping them during their best years.
Michael Owen. Xabi Alonso. Javier Mascherano. Raheem Sterling.
All examples of players who flourished with great potential in a Liverpool shirt before eventually seeking pastures new – and usually abroad.
Philippe Coutinho was no exception.
His exemplary (and usually stand-out) performances did enough to attract attention from FC Barcelona from 2017. That summer, they are believed to have launched a £72 million bid for the playmaker, only to be rebuffed by liverpool who wanted another figure added on top of that.
By January of that season, Barcelona miraculously acquiesced to their wishes.
Liverpool didn’t take very long to accept this one.
And who can blame ‘em?!
Barcelona have only recently been made to pay for their prior indiscretions when it came to overcommitting in the transfer market and under-committing everywhere else.
They thought Philippe Coutinho was going to be a catalyst for their front line.
Instead, it just turned out to be a very expensive mistake.
He struggled to entrench himself into the all-encompassing lifestyle of a Barcelona player; as inducted into them from the Johan Cruyff ‘Total Football’ years.
Oh, and the price tag really didn’t help.
For that amount of money, you’d expect the lad to turn up every match, play with the ball glued to his feet and seal-dribble into the opposition goal because he felt like ‘putting on a show’ for the adoring Catalonian faithful.
But as we’ve seen with other high-profile transfers for players that don’t suit the system of the team to which they move, the price tag became a hindrance.
Poor Philippe Coutinho became a pariah at Barcelona.
Such was the disappointment, that they loaned him out in 2019.
Bayern Munich were able to inject a bit more life into their temporary man, but not enough to want to keep him beyond the 2019/20 season.
His parting gift to the Bavarian giants would come at the dismay of his parent club.
Somehow permitted to play against Barca in the Champions League quarter-final, he came on as a substitute and scored two goals (while assisting another) in the famous 8-2 routing of the Spanish club before promptly dumping them out the competition.
I don’t suppose he was very warmly welcomed on his return.
And when he did get there, the club were almost entirely screwed.
Following a series of financial mismanagements which forced even the great Lionel Messi out the door, Philippe Coutinho barely featured for the club either side of the Argentinian’s departure when he arrived back from Germany.
January 2021 saw him make a move back to the Premier League.
For years, the idea might be that Philippe Coutinho would wear a Liverpool shirt again, though Jurgen Klopp has (and probably always will be) quick to quash those rumours.
Aston Villa’s Steven Gerrard, however, saw a great opportunity in his old teammate.
Having taken over from Dean Smith this year, Gerrard has made a steady start to life as a Premier League manager with Aston Villa.
He soon realised, though, that a playmaker was necessary for his attacking output.
The club had spent pretty big in the summer before (with players like Bailey, Buendia and Ings totalling a near-£100 million spending receipt), but a relatively painless half-season loan move for Coutinho seemed like sound business.
Philippe Coutinho has done well for Aston Villa so far, I must admit.
4 goals and 3 assists in 16 appearances might not be much to shout about at the minute, but he has provided a real spark for the Villains this half of the season.
He clearly hasn’t missed a beat when given the freedom to express himself.
And I feel like we’re a chinwag or two away from seeing his best once again.
“This is a brilliant signing for Aston Villa. Philippe Coutinho is a model professional and his impact on the group has been very clear since he joined in January. As we look to build towards next season, it is incredible to work at a club that executes its business so decisively and smoothly.”Steven Gerrard on signing Coutinho permanently (13 May, 2022)
Clearly, Stevie is more than happy to be reunited with his ex-teammate.
The club think must also be feeling the same way – hence why they so quickly announced the permanent signing of Coutinho for only £17 million from Barcelona for next season.
Representing a loss of around £113 million (including wages) in the space of only three seasons.
Did Barca overpay for Philippe Coutinho? Yes – even with how in-form he was at the time, Liverpool snapped their hands off with the deal and have put that money to much better use ever since. It’s clear that he wasn’t worth that amount of money, and probably had his price inflated since that whole Mbappe thing wrecked the market.
Have economics messed with his selling price? Probably yes.
COVID has gone some way to regulating the amount clubs can spend on players, but it seems to have been poorly managed from the playing side of the club to bring his value so far down.
Will he be a success at Aston Villa? Honestly, yes. Because it’s hard not to be.
Bang in one amazing free-kick, and you’re golden over there, am I right?