The Club Has An Option To Buy The Brazilian Midfielder This Summer
By Nick Flores – LA Soccer Press
Four years after completing his record-breaking transfer to FC Barcelona for £142 million from Premier League club Liverpool, Philippe Coutinho makes his return to England’s top flight with Aston Villa FC on a loan deal.
The club confirmed they will be bringing the Brazilian in on loan for the remainder of the season with an option to buy for £33.4m. This is the first bit of business in the January transfer window for Steven Gerrard, and the deal has come as a surprise to most.
There has been speculation of a return to Liverpool for about two years now after life at the Camp Nou hadn’t gone as planned for the 29-year-old former phenom. While a star under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, Coutinho failed to make a lasting impression at FC Barcelona, leading to a loan move to Bayern Munich.
While he did see success within at those clubs, winning the Champions league, German Cup and the league with Bayern, as well winning the league and Spanish Cup twice with Barcelona, Coutinho never fully lived up to his hefty price tag.
During his stint at Liverpool from 2013-’17, Coutinho became one of the most exciting and sought-after players in the world beginning in the 2015-’16 season when Coutinho found the back of the net eight times in the league with five assists.
Although these are not the most mind-blowing statistics, the quality of goals the Brazilian produced, as well as his skill and composure on the ball, were enough to see that he would become even better in years to come. And he did.
The following season, 2016-’17, Coutinho registered 13 Premier League goals and seven assists and his quality outshined his teammates and ultimately, the rest of the league. It was around then that rumors of a move to his dream club, FC Barcelona, were swirling around and just like that he was sold the following the winter transfer window.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp tried his best to keep Coutinho at Anfield but it was not enough as the player saw it as the only chance to join his dream club.
Klopp had also reportedly told Coutinho this in efforts to keep him in Merseyside, “Stay here, and they will build statue in your honor. Go somewhere else, to Barcelona, to Bayern Munich, to Real Madrid, and you will be just another player. Here you can be something more.”
These words hit home for Liverpool fans especially after his time with Barcelona and Bayern Munich hadn’t gone as he had planned nor as fans expected.
Despite not experiencing the same level of success as he had at Liverpool, Coutinho is being given a fresh start under former teammate and current Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard.
Coutinho and Gerrard spent two-and-a-half seasons together at Anfield and Gerrard took a liking to the talented Brazilian. Gerrard even mentioned how Luis Suárez spoke to him about Coutinho in his 2016 autobiography, “My Story.”
In the book Gerrard speaks of Suárez’s last days at Liverpool and says, “It was also striking that, before he left Melwood forever that day, Luis spoke to me about Philippe Coutinho. ‘Make sure you look after him,’ Luis said of Philippe, adding, ‘He’s a good kid.”
That then struck a chord with Gerrard, and to this day his admiration of Coutinho holds true.
Before the transfer was confirmed Gerrard spoke to the media about Coutinho and had a lot to say about his former teammate.
“[He’s] a serial winner. He played for Barcelona [and] was incredible at Liverpool so I can understand why he’s linked with a lot of football clubs. I can understand why a lot of supporters up and down the country are speaking about him,” Gerrard said. “I don’t think you get a nickname ‘magician’ if you’re not a special footballer.”
Now that the transfer is confirmed by the club Coutinho is joining an Aston Villa side which currently sits 13th in the league with two games in hand. Since the arrival of Gerrard from Scottish Premier League stalwart Rangers, the club has a new-found hope after crown jewel Jack Grealish left for Manchester City for £100m.
This Villa side has aspirations for European football as they are building the squad to compete for that fifth-place spot and qualify for the Europa League. With the summer additions of Leon Bailey, Emiliano Buendia, Danny Ings and more, the project at the club is certainly exciting.
Adding Coutinho to that group can only improve it as he has the Premier League experience, the quality and more importantly, the trust and belief of the manager.
With half of the season remaining and 12 points separating Villa from the fifth spot, it will take a great run of wins for the club to earn that fifth place position. While it may not be likely this season with Arsenal, West Ham, Manchester United and Tottenham all fighting for the spot, it also may not be long until Gerrard to gets his side competing with the top teams.
Coutinho will be available for Villa’s next FA Cup clash with Manchester United on Monday, Jan. 10, but he will likely make his debut for the club the following Saturday as Villa face Manchester United in the league.
It will be a highly anticipated debut for the Brazilian as “The Little Magician” hopes to get back to his best under Gerrard.
Flores is a student at Iowa State University. He writes about the Premier League for L.A. Soccer Press. Follow him at @Nick_Florizzo on Twitter.