Why Philippe Coutinho’s move to Aston Villa makes sense: One last chance to make Brazil’s 2022 World Cup team

Aston Villa has agreed to sign Philippe Coutinho on loan from Barcelona with a summer option to permanently acquire the former Liverpool playmaker as he prepares to reunite with his former teammate Steven Gerrard.

Pending a medical and work permit, the Brazilian international will watch the rest of the 2021-22 campaign at Villa Park as he seeks to rediscover a professional spark that was lost in Catalonia.

He previously starred on the Premier League stage for five years at Anfield, and he hopes to pick up where he left off. The 29-year-old first came to England in the 2013 winter window, when Liverpool pulled him away from Serie A behemoth Inter. Coutinho quickly settled on Merseyside and became a key creative cog for the Reds under Brendan Rodgers.

While the big trophies proved elusive, it was a productive season with the Reds: In total, Coutinho made 201 appearances for Liverpool and recorded 54 goals, while also proving to be a useful source of assists.

Those efforts garnered many admiring glances from afar, with the opportunity to complete a dream trade to Barcelona by showing up in January 2018. A $ 198 million transfer would materialize, but Coutinho struggled to maintain his high standards alongside Lionel Messi at the Camp Nou. And with lingering injuries that proved problematic throughout their tenure at the club, Barcelona are finally ready to cut their losses and move on.

Since then, various venues have been proposed for him, with six Premier League teams reportedly expressing interest. But he’s hopeful that a successful partnership with Gerrard on the field will lead to a spike in fortune once again.

Coutinho’s dream move turns into a nightmare

When he left the Premier League in January 2018, the Brazilian was ready to establish himself as one of the best in the world. Four years later, he is trying to rebuild his career, to put the nightmare of his ‘dream’ move behind him.

Not many players change Barcelona for Aston Villa and see it as a step forward, but for Coutinho it was a very necessary change.

Gerrard played with Coutinho for two and a half seasons at Liverpool and his influence on this deal is clear. Villa, 13th in the Premier League, will rightly view it as a coup, although others take a more cynical stance.

Coutinho, let’s not forget, is the third most expensive player in football history. Only Neymar and Kylian Mbappé have ever been transferred for more than the 198 million dollars that Barcelona agreed with Liverpool in 2018.

He was 25 at the time, about to enter his prime, and was seen in Catalonia as the heir apparent to Andrés Iniesta, a player who enthuses fans and hands out trophies. He definitely won some trophies: two La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey trophies and a Spanish Super Cup in Barcelona, ​​plus a Champions League during a loan period with Bayern Munich in 2020, but it wasn’t. exactly the reason.

Coutinho, the biggest signing in Barcelona’s history, has only 30 total appearances for the club and 24 in the past two seasons. Now that Barcelona are focused on making youngsters like Nico, Gavi and Yusuf Demir bleed, Coutinho has had to content himself with a supporting role, appearing occasionally and often ineffectively from the bench.

His place in the Brazilian national team has also faded. His last international match came in October 2020, although surprisingly he was called up to the team for the November World Cup qualifiers. However, players like Lucas Paquetá, Raphinha, Antony, Vinicius Junior and Matheus Cunha appeared ahead of him; a sign of the challenge he faces if he wishes to force his way into Tite’s plans for Qatar.

Can Coutinho revive his career at Aston Villa?

Villa, of course, hopes to be the beneficiary and is confident that Coutinho will rediscover the magic that saw him light up Liverpool during his five years in Merseyside. There was a reason, after all, why Barcelona wanted to pay all that money for him.

Coutinho’s talent is enormous, his ability to carry the ball, pick killer passes and produce impressive long-range shots has the potential to seriously improve Gerrard’s team, which has remained inconsistent since the loss of the talisman Jack Grealish to Manchester City. in summer.

Coutinho, naturally, has been linked to a host of Premier League clubs prior to Aston Villa’s move. Liverpool’s name was mentioned in almost every transfer window, although the Reds’ stance has always been the same: no interest, no possibility of returning to Anfield, no matter how well Jurgen Klopp & Co. thought about it.

He made more than 200 games for the Reds, scoring 54 goals, but the fans also remember the way he sought to design that signing for Barça, the transfer request on the eve of the 2017-18 season and the curious’ back injury ‘which kept him out of action for weeks once Liverpool refused to sell.

Klopp’s team improved after his departure. The fee received by Coutinho effectively paid for the arrival of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, who would be key players in Liverpool becoming European, world and eventually Premier League champions. They may have regretted his departure, but they have not missed him.

One imagines that there will be many obstacles once Coutinho gets down to work for Villa. Fans, experts and observers will be eager to see how much those four years in Barcelona have taken away from the player, and if Gerrard can be the one to unlock that rich potential once again.

If he can, then Villa may have succeeded in signing the window. But it is a big yes.