FC Barcelona have encountered a serious problem with the most expensive signing in their history. The club paid 160 million euros for a footballer who had a very difficult mission, but also a very clear one: to be the replacement for Andres Iniesta. Coutinho has not yet worked in this role and within the club there is concern about the difficulties he presents Barça, both in terms of position and feeling.
Signed last January while Iniesta was still here, it led Ernesto Valverde to try him in other positions in the middle of the campaign, which, for the Brazilian, was a transitional one. In 16 starts in La Liga, he played in 5 on the right wing, 6 left interior and 5 on the left wing. In the most important games, Coutinho played in the role he likes least, on the right wing. Against Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid and in the Copa del Rey final against Sevilla he started from the right.
With the departure of Andrés Iniesta to Vissel Kobe, the moment came when Coutinho could finally settle into the left interior position. This is how this campaign began, with the matches against Valladolid, Huesca and Leganés in La Liga, as well as against PSV in the Champions League at the Camp Nou. At Butarque, the turning point arrived. Barca fell 2-1 against Leganes, offering symptoms of little consistency in the midfield, and Valverde decided to dispense with midfielder there. He has never played in that area again.
In the nine league games since in which he has been a starter, he has always played from the left wing. Also in the last five Champions League games, and in the Copa against Levante. In this scenario, with Dembélé in good form, Cou is going to be left without a spot after the Frenchman returns.
The restless board
On the board of directors there is concern that Ernesto Valverde has thrown in the towel and has stopped betting on Coutinho to play the position he was signed for, with an historical outlay. The coach has not been able to motivate the player and make him more consistent in a position where he needs to play. Coutinho, as a midfielder, should help Barca defend through the possession of the ball.
Coutinho does not show the same smile as at Liverpool, where he triumphed with Jürgen Klopp. Valverde plans to meet with Coutinho to find solutions, as SPORT has revealed. The coach's mission is to achieve the effect that other coaches have had with similar players performing in deeper positions. At Manchester City, for example, Pep has worked to help De Bruyne and David Silva play well when operating more closely to the pivot. For his part, Jürgen Klopp managed to get Coutinho to shine behind Firmino, Salah and Mané, showing a higher level of intensity than he has managed at Barca.
The positional problem is probably the reason for the feeling of sadness that the player currently puts out on the field. His lack of confidence is evident, as was seen with the two one-on-ones he missed against Girona, and shows an alarming lack of character. Messi and, above all, his friend Luis Suárez are very aware of him. They give him the ball and try to find combinations, but Cou does not take a step forward. Maybe because he feels like a substitute and knows he is playing because of Dembélé's injury or because he’s struggling to process the complicated Barcelona game, at the moment it seems there's no way he can raise his head.