Five years ago, Philippe Coutinho was FC Barcelona’s biggest transfer record breaker. Now, the Brazilian winger is even finding it difficult to compete at Aston Villa so he has been loaned to the Qatari club. The news of Coutinho’s umpteenth loan move will certainly make Liverpool FC fans everywhere rub their chests. Moreover, the one who is currently borrowing it is a club that is only 14 years old.
For comparison, 14 years ago Coutinho had played for the Brazil U-17 team and won the South American U-17 Championship. It feels like Coutinho’s career journey has been much more glamorous than his new club. This talent, which has been visible since he was a teenager, has also attracted talent scouts from top European clubs. This included talent scouts who were regulars at the Serie A champions at that time, Inter Milan.
Not wanting to be left out, Inter immediately secured Coutinho’s signature even though he was only 16 years old. Because of this, the player was allowed to remain at Vasco da Gama, his original club, until he was 18 years old. July 2008, Coutinho officially wore the Inter Milan uniform. Interestingly, there was already a Liverpool feel when he joined. The Internazionale coach at that time was Rafael Benitez, who had just left Anfield.
This relationship then saved Coutinho’s career in Europe. When he continued to have difficulty breaking into Inter Milan’s first team, so he appeared more often as a loan player with Espanyol, the Reds came to make an offer.
On January 30 2013, Liverpool officially announced Coutinho as a new player. Later, LFC Sports Director (at that time) Damien Comolli admitted that Benitez had a role in the purchase. Benitez, Comolli continued, said Coutinho had the potential to become a world-class footballer. The price of 8.5 million pounds that Liverpool has to pay will be a profitable investment. A correct assessment, because from the start of his appearance Coutinho immediately stood out. He contributed 3 goals and numerous assists in 13 appearances in the league.
Liverpool’s Player of the Month award in March 2013, followed by the man of the match award in the match against Newcastle United at the end of April 2013, is an illustration that Benitez’s assessment of Coutinho was not wrong. The following season was arguably Coutinho’s best season as a footballer. Thanks to his contribution in Liverpool’s midfield, he emerged as one of the Premier League’s top midfielders. The Magicians. That’s the title that Liverpool fans pin on Coutinho. Referring to his movements and passes which were like a magic act, they really spoiled the attacking duo Luis Suarez-Daniel Sturridge.
Liverpool came close to winning the league that season, with Coutinho appearing regularly as a starter. He only scored a few goals, but one of them occurred in a big, decisive match. True Liverpool fans will definitely remember this match clearly. Sunday, April 13 2014, took place at the crowded Anfield Stadium because the opponents they faced were the strongest competitors in the fight for the championship title. Yes, Manchester City.
The match had only been running for 6 minutes, Liverpool were already leading 1-0 through Raheem Sterling’s action. Then followed by a second goal by Martin Skrtel 20 minutes later. Man. City took over in the second half. In the 57th minute, David Silva made it 2-1 after converting James Milner’s pass. The score was level at 2-2 when Glenn Johnson found the back of his own net in the 62nd minute. The tension in the match increased from then on.
This is where Coutinho emerged as a hero. He fired his iconic shot in the 78th minute to win Liverpool. The victory made the Reds 7 points ahead of Man. City, with only four weeks remaining in the league. Unfortunately, Liverpool failed to take advantage of this golden momentum. Dramatically Man. City successfully took over the top of the standings and emerged as champions.
Suarez, who became Liverpool’s main player in the 2013-14 season, then moved to Barcelona. Coutinho is said to have also received offers from a number of clubs, but chose to stay at Anfield. Coutinho even then signed a contract extension with Liverpool on February 3 2015. An agreement that will keep him as a Reds player until June 2020. August 2017, Barcelona made its first offer for Coutinho. However, Liverpool immediately refused, even though the proposed figure was relatively large: 72 million pounds.
Barcelona made another offer, of course with a larger nominal amount. Not just once, in fact twice and all were rejected by Liverpool. On December 31 2017, Nike, which sponsors Coutinho and Barcelona, issued an advertisement that sparked fan anxiety. In the ad, Coutinho’s image is displayed on the back of the Barcelona jersey.
From advertising to reality. Liverpool agreed to release Coutinho to Barcelona in January 2018. The agreement is currently recorded as the Blaugrana’s most expensive transfer. It was at this moment that a quote circulated about Jurgen Klopp’s words to Coutinho. The remarks were said to be the manager’s last attempt to persuade the player to stay at Anfield.
“Hold on, and you will be made into a statue here.” That’s what Klopp said to Coutinho at that time. However, not all players like to have their clubs make statues. Most preferred the title, something that Liverpool could not provide at that time. Coutinho decided to leave. Liverpool languished, but at least the 8.5 million pound investment has been returned a dozen times.
We all know what happened next. Coutinho only sparkled briefly, but then faded and receded. Lionel Messi was still at his best with Barcelona at that time. It is difficult for Coutinho to become the main choice in El Barca’s midfield. Coutinho did win two La Liga titles, plus one Copa Del Rey trophy. However, his performance on the field was widely criticized. Moreover, after he celebrated the goal, his relationship with the fans worsened.
Only 1.5 seasons at the Nou Camp, Coutinho was loaned to Bayern Munich. It was a stroke of luck because with FC Bayern he managed to win the Champions League. An achievement that is like revenge for Coutinho. Apart from appearing in the final, his success with Bayern involved a landslide 8-2 victory over Barcelona in the quarter-finals.
Coutinho returned to Barcelona at the start of the 2020-21 season. However, in December 2020 he suffered a serious injury and had to be absent until the end of the season. Since then, Coutinho’s career has faded. Even though he had recovered from his injury, he never got the chance to appear with Barcelona.
January 2022, Coutinho returns to the Premier League. He accepted the offer from Aston Villa, which is being managed by his former captain at Liverpool, Steven Gerrard. From a loan player, Coutinho’s status will become permanent at the start of the 2022-23 season. Unfortunately, Villa’s bad start which resulted in Gerrard’s dismissal had an impact on Coutinho’s fate.
Ending up in Qatar? Not getting enough opportunities to appear under Unai Emery, Coutinho agreed to an offer from Qatar. Again only on loan, but with a permanent option next season. Al Duhail Sports Club is the name of the Qatari club. This sports club, which is headquartered in Doha, was only formed in 2009. Initially founded as Al Shorta Doha, then changed to Lekhwiya Club, before finally being rebranded as Al Duhail SC after the merger with El Jaish SC in April 2017.
Even though they are only young, Al Duhail is not just any club. Since it was still called Lekhwiya, the club managed by Hernan Crespo has repeatedly won the Qatar League. As Lekhwiya SC alone, he won 6 Qatari Stars League titles. Plus 3 Qatar Cup trophies and 2 Emir of Qatar Cup trophies. After rebranding, the club which is based at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium continues to add to its collection of titles. Last season, Al Duhail SC won the treble after winning the Qatar League, Qatar Cup and Qatari Stars Cup.
However, Coutinho’s move to Al Duhail is still seen as a career downturn. Especially if you look at his profile and achievements 3-5 years ago. Who would have thought that a player who made Barcelona willing to pay almost 150 million pounds five years ago, is now playing with a club that is only 14 years old. Will this be the end of Philippe Coutinho’s professional career?