We all thought his career at the Camp Nou was over, but Phillipe Coutinho is back from the dead and back in the first-team picture at Barcelona for the coming season.
The Brazilian looked set to be on his way out of the club following a season-long loan to Bayern Munich last year, where he won the treble. Despite his successes there, the Bavarians decided not to take up their purchase option on the player and he looked certain for another move.
Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and PSG were all linked with the attacking midfielder, with Barcelona seemingly desperate to recoup as much of the £142million they paid for him as possible. Then Ronald Koeman arrived at the club and the picture seemingly changed.
Despite losing his No.7 shirt to Antoine Griezmann, Coutinho is back in the fold. He started the pre-season game against Girona on Wednesday, scoring the opening goal and is reportedly in line to compete with Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele as the left-winger. Memphis Depay is likely to join to compete with Griezmann as the central striker while the right-wing is Lionel Messi’s kingdom and he’ll be backed up by youngster Trincao.
The former Liverpool man returned to pre-season training early to make a good impression and has returned bulked up following his year in Germany. He looks a lot leaner and more muscular, which will help him add an extra dimension to his game other than the standard shift-and-shoot that he has produced over the years.
With Coutinho now an added option in attack, Barcelona will start to look to move on some players. Luis Suarez is likely to leave the club although his destination is unknown, while Arturo Vidal will join Inter Milan. It’s possible Trincao may be allowed to leave on loan once Memphis arrives from Lyon, with Leicester reportedly interested in the young Portuguese winger.
Coutinho is undoubtedly talented and has got the raw ability to make a success of himself at Barcelona. He needs to immerse himself in the culture of the club and with Koeman being tasked with bringing back the club’s DNA into their playing style, Coutinho will need to learn a new way of playing that is geared towards getting the best from Lionel Messi.
As it stands, he will start the season as the first-choice left-winger at the club in a huge change of fortunes over the summer. Now he needs to prove he deserves it so he can stay there.