It seems almost inevitable that Philippe Coutinho's name will appear on a daily basis, for one reason or another, between now and the end of the season. His now famous celebration against Manchester United only fuelled his appearances in the media. He's not living up to the expectations his signing brought, losing his place to Ousmane Dembele earlier this season and the chances of him leaving Barça in the summer have increased.
No one at the club has commented on it because they don't want to steer attention away from the pitch, where the team are competing for three titles. Coach Ernesto Valverde, fed up of questions about the Brazilian, has repeated that "he is an important player for us and can help us a lot." It's a line he will stick to.
But the evidence is what it is and Coutinho's performances, coupled with his gesture in the Champions League game against United, have creared a delicate situation. One of the Premier League side's top six have him in their sights in the case that Eden Hazard moves to Real Madrid, which now seems unavoidable. Only FIFA will be able to stop them moving for the ex-Liverpool man, in fact.
'THE BARÇA EXAMPLE'
A few months ago, world football's governing body communicated to the London club that they'd broken rules when signing minors and banned them from signing players for two transfer windows, as well as fining them 460,000 pounds. FIFA looked into 92 cases and found rules had been breached in 29 of them, including the signing of now Lyon player Bertrand Traore. As as happened with Barcelona, though, who suffered a similar punishment in 2016, Chelsea appealed in February. They're waiting for FIFA's reponse and hope that the transfer ban will be, at least, delayed, as was the case with the Catalans.
FIFA's Appeals Committee have no exact timescale on when they will reply to Chelsea, but other cases have usually been resolved within four months. Therefore, at the latest, by the end of May or early June, there should be an official response. Once that's happened, the domino effect will follow. The most likely outcome, as with Barça, is that the ban is delayed by one window as the appeal is looked into, which would give the Premier League side the summer to make signings.
Hazard's exit seems a given (he's moving into the final year of his contract) with Madrid prepared to pay around 100 million points. And Coutinho would be the Blues' No.1 objective to replace the Belgian. Barça aren't against selling if they can recoup some of the huge investment they made on the Brazilian, who still has a great reputation in England. In addition to Coutinho, Nicolas Pepe is another target for Chelsea.
Therefore, and even though it sounds bizarre, Philippe's future could be in the hands of FIFA.