Philippe Coutinho is a Barcelona player – but what will his impact be?
It finally happened. Philippe Coutinho is now a Barcelona player after one of the most drawn-out transfer saga of them all.
But the big question now is, what exactly have Barca bought and what will Coutinho bring to the Camp Nou?
He isn’t a replacement for Neymar, that’s Ousmane Dembele’s job.
Coutinho arguably has a tougher task ahead of him in that he is intended to succeed Andres Iniesta.
The Spaniard will be 34-years-old in May, and a simply glorious career is nearing an end.
On the ball, £142m man Coutinho can certainly match Iniesta for ability.
But what made the latter so great was his intelligence and ability to read a game and his opponents.
Time and time again Iniesta would (and still does) find space, a through ball, or a team-mate when few others could.
Right now, Coutinho is not a central midfielder in the way Iniesta is. But Barcelona believe he can be.
The Brazilian boasts no shortage of creative talent. The Anfield faithful will strongly attest to that, and seven Premier League assists from 14 games this term speaks likewise.
So although his new role will be a change – he’ll likely sit deeper than he did at Liverpool – there’s no reason he can’t thrive.
Barca boast a whole host of players who will allow Coutinho time and space to pick out Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Dembele – as they did for Iniesta and Xaxi.
Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Paulinho will be on hand to protect their new team-mate.
If Coutinho is to take on Iniesta’s mantel, those players will be crucial in helping him do so.
But where Coutinho could really become a Barca star – is his versatility.
He can play much further up front, and more effectively, than Iniesta. Should Ernesto Valverde require a tactical change, Coutinho will be crucial.
Messi, Suarez and Dembele will become the club’s new trinity, but they’ll have a wonderful asset to offer cover, competition and flexibility.
It will take time for Coutinho to settle in, and from a Barcelona perspective it’s a real coup to get him for six months before next season begins.
He will need assistance from team-mates if he is to reach anything like Iniesta’s success, but he has already shown that the ability is there to become the newest Barcelona legend.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication