In hindsight, the gesture from Philippe Coutinho after scoring against Manchester United in the Champions League was ill-advised.
Putting his fingers in his ears as if to say to the Camp Nou crowd ‘I can’t hear you’ was always likely to rile the supporters further.
They’ve never been backwards in coming forwards to let the Brazilian known what they think, but he should’ve had the maturity to ride out the negativity.
It showed, beyond doubt, that there’s a real disconnect between player and fan base.The news that Neymar is trying every which way to return to the Catalans should be a cause for celebration, but it could actually be the kicker for his countryman to get the old heave-ho.
Barcelona need to lessen the wage bill whether Neymar arrives or not, with the need clearly more urgent if he comes.
As one of the biggest earners in the team and who could command a hefty transfer fee, it does make sense for the club to consider offers on Coutinho.
The player himself even recently noted that he “doesn’t know” if he will be playing at Barca next season, and that he “hasn’t performed as expected.”
After a decent enough start at the Camp Nou, the goals quickly dried up, and with it went Coutinho’s confidence.
It hasn’t helped being played out of position for the most part, and each time the Brazilian has tried to involve himself at the sharp end, his moves have either broken down or he has missed the opportunities.
Still a magnificent player, it’s hard to escape from the feeling that he has become a square peg in a round hole.
A move elsewhere would clearly benefit him on a professional level as much as it would Barca on a financial one.
But where could he go?
Paris Saint-Germain could potentially offer him what he wants, and he’d be a perfect replacement if Neymar went in the opposite direction.
Chelsea are known to be interested, but until it’s confirmed that their punishment from CAS has been overturned, they’re not in a position to make an offer.
Liverpool would be highly unlikely to take their former player back, whilst Manchester City could afford him but it’s difficult to see where he’d fit in, given the roll call of talent they already have at their disposal.
Bayern Munich had a not too dissimilar player in James Rodriguez until this summer, so a potential Bundesliga switch isn’t out of the question, whilst Juve are already well stocked with midfielders.
A lot would seem to depend on just what happens with Neymar. If he doesn’t end up back at Barca, then Coutinho actually still has a role to play.
How much of one depends on his ability to get the best from himself.