Philippe Coutinho is closing in on his long-awaited move to Barcelona from Liverpool in a deal worth £142 million, according to BBC Sport. The Brazilian international was desperate to move to the Catalan club during the summer, but a transfer couldn’t be agreed between the two clubs.
As the months have passed since, it seemed inevitable that he would eventually move to the Nou Camp and it is a positive that the saga is now reaching its climax. The 25-year-old will sign a five-and-a-half-year deal with Barcelona with a buyout clause set at £355 million.
Liverpool fans will be feeling disappointed that their team are losing a very talented player, but taking everything into consideration, this could turn out to be a great piece of business. They signed Coutinho for £8.5 million in January 2013 and he helped them grow back into a Champions League club.
The eye-watering profit shows why the board have agreed to the transfer, but for it to be great business, they must spend the money wisely.
How big of a loss will Coutinho be for this Liverpool side?
The Brazilian international may be joining Barcelona for a larger fee than the one paid for Luis Suarez in 2014, but this sale will be easier to recover from for Liverpool. They showed that they didn’t need him in August as they beat top-six rivals Arsenal by a huge 4-0 score line in his absence.
There is no doubting that Coutinho is a fantastic player and has established himself as one of the best in the Premier League during the last 18 months. However, Jurgen Klopp hasn’t built the side around the midfielder and it may have been for this very reason. There was always a chance that he would leave and the test is now how they can regenerate using the finances brought in.
A quick look at Coutinho’s stats from this season show that he remained committed to the cause and it is difficult not to be impressed by them. Across the Champions League and Premier League, he contributed 12 goals and eight assists, with a goal involvement every 73.2 minutes.
Barcelona will be hoping that he can maintain that level in Spain, but Liverpool can easily compete without his contribution.
Goals haven’t been a problem for Liverpool this season, as they have averaged 2.6 goals in the two major competitions. Coutinho played his part in that, but they have three other excellent attackers in the squad.
Sadio Mane (102.2 minutes), Roberto Firmino (91.5 minutes) and Mohamed Salah (74.4 minutes) all have a worse goal involvement than the outgoing Brazilian across the two major competitions. However, with all three in the team, the Reds won’t struggle for goals and the money brought in needs to be spent on the problem areas in the squad.
It will be interesting to see who steps up to fill the creative void. Coutinho was averaging 3.24 chances created in the Premier League this season. He was the most creative Liverpool player by some distance.
The return of Adam Lallana may have nudged the club into selling as he could be the short-term solution to take up the advanced midfield role. He would be the first to admit that he isn’t as good as the player leaving the club, but he is a consistent performer and he will offer a lot more defensively.
The simple solution would be to buy a like-for-like replacement, but the money should be spent on the problem areas and the attack isn’t one of them.
If the club spend it on the defence, they can end January with a better team than they started the month with.
How should they spend the money?
The signing of Virgil van Dijk has already been completed and he has gone some way to improving the defence, but more investment is needed in this area. Although Joel Matip is an accomplished centre-back, he does make too many errors to start in a team with ambition of winning major honours.
Manuel Akanji has been linked with the club and he is thought to be one of the brightest talents in Europe. It would be difficult to sign another top centre-back in this window for a reasonable fee, but the Basel defender would be a shrewd purchase.
A position that could be strengthened during this window is goalkeeper, as Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius have both proven themselves to be short of quality for Liverpool.
Stoke City’s Jack Butland and Roma’s Alisson have been talked about as potential targets. Either would represent an upgrade. If a quality goalkeeper is brought in before January, the Reds’ chances of challenging for trophies this season will significantly increase.
Emre Can is likely to follow Coutinho out of the door in the summer and that will leave Liverpool short in central midfield. This money could be used to bring in a quality option there. The one profile they are currently missing is a ball-winning midfielder that enjoys sitting deep and anchoring the midfield.
Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho has long been linked to the Premier League and he is a player that would benefit from working under Jurgen Klopp. With Naby Keita arriving in the summer, a player like the Portuguese midfielder would be a great complement in the middle of the park.
Tottenham and Liverpool have both shown how not to spend money gained through the sale of a big player in the past. The Reds must learn from those mistakes and make sure they distribute the money across the right positions.
The defence and central midfield positions need to be the priority. This is an opportunity to shape the squad in a way that Klopp prefers and a like-for-like replacement for Coutinho would be a waste.
At the time of writing, the sale isn’t as devastating as some are making out. The Reds can emerge from January with a better team if the money is spent well.
Luka Modric could prove the perfect Emre Can replacement at Liverpool
The Croatian has been linked with a move to Anfield with Emre Can expected to leave this summer.
Emre Can looks set to be on his way out of Anfield this summer as the 24-year-old German international seems unwilling to sign a new contract at Liverpool.
Spanish news outlet El Gol Digital have recently linked Real Madrid with the German international, although they would have to fend off interest from European rivals Juventus.
Speaking to Sport 1, Can recently expressed his desire to be featured in the world team of the year at some point in his career.
For the 24-year-old, it would be difficult to turn down a club of Madrid’s magnitude and his departure would represent a blow for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Nonetheless, a swap deal for Real Madrid star Luka Modric would be a superb way to ease the pain of the German’s exit.
Reports linking Can with the Bernabeu come just a matter of weeks after Spanish newspaper Dario Gol expressed Luka Modric’s desire to leave the current Champions League holders.
The Croation international is reportedly keen on a return to the Premier League return, with Liverpool, along with Tottenham, named as front-runners for his signature.
Even at 32 years of age, the Croatian midfielder is still one of the best players in the world and would represent an excellent short-term fix for the Reds.
His brilliant passing range, his superb footballing brain, and his delicate skills are all crucial components that would boost Liverpool’s attacking threat.
Combined with a world-class attack consisting of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane, the Reds truly could stake a claim for the most dynamic frontline in England next season.
Most importantly, the addition of Modric could finally mark the replacement for Philippe Coutinho that many Liverpool supporters have been begging for.
A seasoned international with tremendous experience at the upper levels of world football would be a remarkable transfer for Klopp’s side, and would surely bolster their title aspirations in 2018/19.
Andrew Robertson the most important Liverpool summer signing
The Scottish left-back has plugged a gap that has existed at Liverpool for some time.
Mohamed Salah rightly received all the praise yesterday, after Liverpool put Watford to the sword in the Premier League.
Liverpool beat the Hornets 5-0 at Anfield, with the Egyptian scoring four of the goals.
It is hard to argue with Salah being the club’s best signing in the summer. His tally of 37 goals in 43 games certainly highlights that fact.
However, the most important signing might have been that of Andrew Robertson.
The Scottish left-back joined from Hull City in a deal, reported by the Independent, to be worth around £8 million. That price-tag is now looking an absolute bargain.
Liverpool have had problems at left-back for a number of seasons.
Alberto Moreno looked like being the solution. However, the Spaniard’s defensive work and decision making made him a liability.
Jon Flanagan, who was Brendan Rodgers’ regular left-back, has not reached similar heights since a series of knee injuries decimated his promising career.
Last season saw James Milner fill the role. The experienced midfielder played well out of position but long-term, was not the solution.
Now, Liverpool have Robertson. The Scotland international has made the step up from his time at Hull with ease.
The 24-year-old Glaswegian is not only a threat going forward, but defensively he is exceptional.
His delivery into the box is undoubtedly exemplary, but he is equally adept at stopping opposing players from getting near Liverpool’s.
Liverpool have managed to bring in a player perfectly suited to Jurgen Klopp’s style of play.
Heavy-metal is the way Robertson plays in both attack and defence and the fans at Anfield already love him.
At just £8 million and only 24-years-old Liverpool picked up the bargain of the summer in the Premier League.
If Robertson can continue to progress and play with the same level of consistency he already has, then a decade of dominance at left-back could follow as Liverpool’s left-back.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah within touching distance of all-time Premier League goal-scoring record
The Egyptian international has 28 Premier League goals this term.
Anfield witnessed a truly special moment in the second half of Liverpool’s 5-0 thrashing of Watford on Saturday. Winning 3-0, Liverpool were running riot in wintry conditions, and Mohamed Salah collected the ball just inside the box on a hat-trick.
What followed was absolute magic, emblematic of a dream debut season in the north-west for the Egyptian. Salah was mobbed by three defenders, but left all three in the dust with one deft cut-back.
Then, with two more Watford players crashing in on the ball, Salah remarkably managed to poke an improvised finish into the far corner past the helpless Orestis Karnezis.
As Salah wheeled away in celebration, tongue stuck out and arms extended, Anfield reveled in history in the making. That goal marked Salah’s 27th of the Premier League season and he would go on to score his 28th just eight minutes later.
The Egyptian is on course to smash the Premier League scoring records in emphatic fashion. The current record is 31 goals, a tally achieved by Alan Shearer in 1995/96, Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007/08, and fellow Red Luis Suarez in 2013/14.
With seven matches remaining, including fixtures against the likes of West Brom and Stoke, few would bet against Salah demolishing the 22-year-old record.
The achievement would place Salah in the illustrious company of Premier League legends, an incredible feat for a player who many in England wrote off during his short spell at Chelsea.
Thanks to Salah, Liverpool have barely missed a step after the departure of Philippe Coutinho in January, advancing to the Champions League quarterfinals and cementing their top-four position.
The prolific winger is proving all of his doubters wrong in audacious fashion, and with a Premier League Golden Boot and goal-scoring record seemingly on the way, he is one of the most in-form players in the world.
The early-April European clash with Manchester City will provide Salah with, perhaps, his biggest stage yet. Expect the top goalscorer in England to rise to the occasion.
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