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Transfer Spotlight: Aston Villa’s Philippe Coutinho

The Brazilian playmaker will make Villa Park his permanent home

Manchester City v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

Aston Villa wasted very little time in ensuring Philippe Coutinho’s move from Barcelona was made permanent. The Premier League side announced the signature of the Brazilian star on a four-year contract for £17 million from Barcelona. The midfielder endured a torrid time in Spain, failing to secure a starting spot at Barca and suffering through a series of injuries. Coutinho made less than 80 appearances during his four-year stay, scoring 17 goals and adding 9 assists.

Coutinho’s loan to Aston Villa in January was the result of a personal invitation by coach Steven Gerrard, a former teammate of Coutinho at Liverpool. The move proved beneficiary for both parties which spurred the club into forking out more to sign him permanently. After his signature was announced, Gerrard said

“I was aware a little bit before it was announced and I think it’s fantastic for everyone connected with the club. You’ve seen the reaction from the supporters, it’s very positive, they’ve seen him over the last five or six months play ever so well. He’s still got loads left in him, in our opinion. To have him here full time and settled, I think he’ll come again and go up another level because of that feeling of knowing where he’s going to be playing for the next four years.”

Coutinho was also full of praise for his manager and his new club upon the announcement of his permanent signature.

“He (Gerrard) believes in me. We’ve known each other for a long time and I felt very welcome from him and his staff when I arrived here. He’s a great manager, for sure. I’m happy to be managed by him and his staff. I feel happy in the club. It’s been a good start and I want to achieve good things with the club. I’m already looking forward to the next year. I believe so much in the squad and the club, and we can achieve good things next year.”

Let’s use the occasion of Coutinho’s permanent signature to review his history and speculate about his future.


Background

Coutinho was born on 12 June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As a kid, Coutinho liked football but initially preferred to watch his brothers (Leandro and Cristiano) and their friends play because he was very shy. His admiration for them ultimately brought him out his shell though. “They were always with the ball like most children in the country, and of course, I wanted to be like them.”

His path to greatness began in the town of Rocha, in Rio de Janeiro, close to the famous Maracana Stadium. By the time he was six years old, to the surprise of many, Coutinho’s skills had already advanced well beyond his years, and his dad was advised to enroll him into a nearby team in order to nurture his talent. Coutinho’s skills blossomed and this eventually attracted the interest of the coaches at Vasco da Gama. Coutinho joined Vasco da Gama and continued to flourish, eventually being called up to the Brazil Under-14 squad. He said it was at this point that it dawned on him that he could actually become a professional footballer: “I first thought to myself, okay you can actually be a professional. At that point, I realized I had to start thinking about the game more seriously.”

He excelled in Vasco da Gama’s youth system and his obvious talent and ability quickly caught the eye of European clubs, with Inter Milan winning the race for his signature in 2008. Upon signing for Inter Milan, he was loaned back to Vasco da Gama for two seasons during which he made 36 appearances and scored four goals. After the completion of his two-year loan spell back in his home country, Inter Milan felt Coutinho was ready for European experience, so he was loaned to Espanyol in Spain. There the midfielder made 16 appearances, scoring 5 goals. His loan spells meant Coutinho only featured 28 times for Inter Milan during his 5 years stay, scoring three goals.

Coutinho opened the best chapter of his professional career when he joined Liverpool from Inter Milan for £8.5m in 2013. Coutinho flourished during his time at Liverpool, making the PFA Team of the Year in 2015. He made 152 appearances between 2013 and 2018, scoring 41 goals and adding 23 assists. This made him one of the most coveted players on the planet and attracted the interest of Spanish giants Barcelona, who signed him in January of 2018 for a fee totaling £142 million.

Despite enjoying a bright start at Barcelona, injuries and loss of form meant Coutinho couldn’t replicate the brilliant performances he produced at Liverpool. He was eventually shipped to Bayern Munich on loan in 2019, where he won the Champions League. He made 23 appearances for Bayern, scoring 8 goals including one against parent club Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinal match.


How Will Coutinho Fit In At Aston Villa

As a right-footed midfielder, Coutinho is comfortable playing in a number of positions. In fact, his best position has always been a source of debate, with the Brazilian flourishing as either a left-sided winger which gives him the opportunity to cut onto his favored right foot and hit long-range shots, or as a midfielder just behind the striker. During his loan spell at Villa, Coutinho featured interchangeably in both roles. Gerrard however gave him the freedom to roam about and switch positions which made him hard for defenders to track.

Coutinho featured in a front three alongside the likes of Ollie Watkins, Emi Buendia, Danny Ings, and Jacob Ramsey. Expect to see more of the creative talents of Coutinho and Buendia working together next season. Having the pre-season to work on their partnership should do the Villans a whole world of good in the upcoming season. Here’s a short insight into Coutinho’s 2022 performances for club and country.


Fantasy Prospects

Coutinho was a certain starter during his first spell at the club and as such he is expected to continue to own his spot on the left side of midfield once the new season commences. Gerrard is once again expected to retain his favored 4-3-3 formation which helped Coutinho flourish in the past season as he was able to cut in, create chances and score goals.

Despite only joining midway through the season and having very little time to settle in, Coutinho scored five goals and added three assists in 19 appearances for the club. Coutinho shared set-piece responsibilities with left-back Lucas Digne last season and this is expected to continue next season. Despite so far failing to score for Villa from a direct free-kick, it’s only a matter of time before the tricky midfielder finds his range from set pieces. Indirect free-kick and corner kicks should also prove to be a reliable source of assists for the Brazilian next season.

Priced at just £7.1 last season, Coutinho proved to be a popular choice in many FPL teams. He proved to be a better investment compared to other Aston Villa midfielders, finishing the season on 83 points despite only joining in January. For comparison, Jacob Ramsey finished with 103 points, Douglas Luiz 89 points, Emiliano Buendia 107 points, and John McGinn 110 points.


Stats, quotes and info for this article were sourced from en.wikipedia.org, bbc.com, skysports.com, avfc.co.uk, claretvillans.com, lifebogger.com.

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What do you think about Coutinho? Is he already in your fantasy plans, or will you wait to see how things unfold next season? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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