Finally … I guess?
After spending most of last summer trying to convince Liverpool to take a large chunk of the €222 million they got from Paris Saint-Germain for Neymar, Barcelona have finally signed 25-year-old Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho for a reported £142 million. The eventual Coutinho-to-Barcelona move seemed like the worst-kept secret in soccer—thanks, Nike!—but now it’s happening, six months earlier than expected, and the timing raises one particular question: Why now?
Barcelona is getting one of the best creative attacking players in the world, right as he hits his peak. What makes Coutinho uniquely valuable is his ability to play either as a tucked-in winger, a no. 10 behind the striker, or as a semi-traditional central midfielder. With a low-to-the ground, staccato playing style that’s all chops and subtle angles, he can produce like an elite attacker if he’s pushed high up the field, And when he drops into the midfield, he provides attacking production that basically no one outside of Manchester United’s Paul Pogba is able to offer from the same position. This year—on a per-90 basis and among players with at least 900 minutes played—Coutinho is fourth in the Premier League in shots, eighth in successful dribbles, fourth in chances created, and third in assists. No other player even comes close to ranking in the top 10 of all four categories.
Coutinho has such a diverse and productive skill set that—no matter the system—he would make any team better. That includes the best team in the world, which according to >FiveThirtyEight’s model, is exactly what FC Barcelona is. Led by Lionel Messi’s 15 goals and six assists, Ernesto Valverde’s side is already 14 points ahead of Real Madrid, so they’ve essentially already wrapped up La Liga and get to focus the next six months on winning their first Champions League trophy since 2014-15, which just so happens to be the last time they bought Liverpool’s best player, then Luis Suárez. Except this time around, their marquee Merseyside arrival won’t even be able to play in the Champions League; Coutinho played 347 minutes for Liverpool in the group stages of the competition, and UEFA rules preclude any player from playing for multiple teams over the course of a season.
Barcelona is breaking the transfer record among clubs not funded by a sovereign-wealth fund in order to solidify a domestic title that’s already pretty close to being won. The Independent’s Miguel Delaney reported that Barcelona see Coutinho as Andrés Iniesta’s replacement, and while they’re not quite the same player—Coutinho shoots way more often, and Iniesta is one of the greatest passers of all time—the Brazilian fills the same dribble-heavy, ball-progressing, hybrid-midfield role that the Spanish legend has held for the past decade. Yet Barça reportedly sees the extra value in grabbing Coutinho now because he’ll be able to spell the 33-year-old Iniesta in the league while he plays in Europe … but Barça’s domestic lead is so big that they likely can afford a drop-off in quality from Iniesta to a lesser option currently on the roster and still coast to a La Liga title.
The other reason that Barça supposedly want to do the move now is that they’re afraid Coutinho’s value could rise even higher after the World Cup, where the global stage will often inflate or deflate transfer fees based on just a handful of good or bad games. Coutinho is an incredibly talented and productive player, but in terms of pure potential and starpower, he’s not Neymar, and he’s probably not even Kylian Mbappé, either.
The one hole in his game is his shot selection; he shoots a ton, but the average quality of his shots (0.07 expected goals per shot this season) falls way below average. Because of that, he’s probably right outside the top tier of non-Messi players. Over the summer, Football Whispers and ESPN FC rated him as the 14th-most-valuable player in the world—not the second-most-expensive player of all time.
Value, of course, almost never equals cost. The Neymar transfer may have been an outlier—remember: PSG more than doubled the world-record transfer fee—but, according to a source who helps various European clubs make investment decisions, it’s inflated the way that top clubs value their players on their balance sheets. If Liverpool can sell Coutinho for £142 million, then why wouldn’t, say, Chelsea value Eden Hazard at around the same price?
And yet, even though Delaney suggests that Barça has already spent the immediate profit from the Neymar deal on the €105 million deal for Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembélé and the new contract for Lionel Messi that runs through 2021, spending a further £142 million on Coutinho isn’t as wild as it might sound. Historically, top teams spend around 20 percent of their revenue on record signings, and Coutinho would come in right around that number.
Save for some exceptions, 20% is usually what clubs spend on their record signings, depending whether you look at previous season or existing season turnover pic.twitter.com/GzACpFkg6w— Omar Chaudhuri (@OmarChaudhuri) December 27, 2017
Source : https://www.theringer.com/2018/1/6/16856622/soccer-transfers-philippe-coutinho-fc-barcelona-liverpool-jurgen-klopp1037