When Jurgen Klopp leaves Liverpool, whenever that may be, his tenure at Anfield will have two classifications – before Philippe Coutinho and after Philippe Coutinho. Indeed, while the German made significant progress in his first two-and-a-half seasons as Reds manager, it was the sale of the Brazilian playmaker that acted as a catalyst for acceleration.
It was after Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona that Liverpool became the team we see in front of us today. While there was no doubting his quality during his time at Anfield, Coutinho wasn’t a Klopp type of player. While the German coach favoured a fast and furious approach, particularly in the attacking third, the Brazilian had a tendency for slowing things down.
Of course, while Liverpool improved post-Coutinho the playmaker himself struggled to find a place at Barcelona. Signed as the most expensive player in the Catalan club’s history, Coutinho has been a peripheral figure for Ernesto Valverde with reports suggesting he could be sold this summer.
This has led to hints that Coutinho could make a dramatic return to Liverpool just 18 months after he left the club. Financially, any deal could make sense for the Reds such is the discount Barcelona are willing to offer any club willing to take a look at Coutinho. Having been a success at Anfield before, why wouldn’t he a success in a second spell?
It’s true that Liverpool still require a central, attacking midfielder, missing out on Nabil Fekir last summer. But they should avoid the temptation to re-sign Coutinho this summer. The addition of the Brazilian to their squad could risk what the Reds have built and established over the past year-and-a-half.
Liverpool’s greatest strength comes from their reflection of Klopp’s coaching identity. They are so difficult to play against because of the speed and directness they offer. Where would Coutinho fit in, both in terms of Liverpool’s footballing philosophy under Klopp and the starting lineup favoured by the German?
What’s more, Liverpool have other areas that require strengthening before they spend big money on Coutinho. They are light in the centre of defence, for instance, where injuries to Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren really tested them last season. Wingers and a centre forward would also give them a depth they have lacked at times over the past two years.
Coutinho was a hero at Liverpool. He was their best player for a time and deserves credit for what he did at Anfield. But the Reds have moved on since he left for Barcelona in January 2018. Going back for him could compromise what they have achieved in that time.
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