Dubai: Brazilian Philippe Coutinho’s return from Barcelona to the Premier League has captured the imagination of fans on the eve of the European season kick-starting this week — though his fate could be known by Thursday, 5pm (8pm UAE), the transfer deadline.
Prominent among the line of suitors are Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, even though the rumour mill actually started off with an alleged interest from Arsenal.
Early last year, Coutinho had arrived in Barcelona from Liverpool for a record €160 million ($192 million, Dh658.2 million). In the intervening period, the Brazilian has fallen out of favour with manager Ernesto Valverde, who wants him out of the club before the start of the La Liga season on August 16.
As Barcelona are looking to offload the 27-year-old playmaker with a reported move to one of the EPL sides, Tottenham’s link with the move is seen as most likely since manager Mauricio Pochettino had coached Coutinho at Espanyol for a short period and the duo is reported to have a good relationship. It, however, boils down to the willingness to spend as at the same time, the Gunners were said to have continued with their interest.
Even if the Spurs move is alive, things won’t be as easy as Pochettino will be required to free up space in his own squad by ensuring that Danish international Christian Eriksen moves to Manchester United for a fee in the region of $60 million. Coutinho’s $350,000 a week wages can be quite a problematic issue in the attempt to engineer a move away from the Camp Nou.
“He [Coutinho] needs to be out of Barcelona. I guess that’s all the Barca fans will care for now,” Agnel Aranha, a supply chain professional working in Mumbai, told Gulf News.
“He’s a good player, but unfortunately, he didn’t fit into the system. The only hope is that he does justice to his talent, be it at Spurs, United or wherever he decides to move,” he added.
Sheldon Telles, a Dubai-based football enthusiast, weighed the options before the Brazilian star.
“Coutinho to Spurs makes perfect sense at this stage. But that said, Barcelona are always suspect in their sale of players. They have not been good businessmen in the past while selling the likes of David Villa and Pedro,” Telles observed.
“I think Spurs will be a better fit as Coutinho will be guaranteed of Champions League action with them. On the other hand, if Manchester United offloads Paul Pogba, then Coutinho could fit in well there too,” he added.
Meanwhile, Coutinho has travelled to Miami with the squad for a short tour during which they will play Napoli in two friendlies. Argentine superstar Lionel Messi has not travelled due to an injury but new signings Antoine Griezmann and Dutch sensation Frenkie De Jong are both scheduled to appear in the matches.
Spanish international Pique, a Barca veteran, said: “I want him [Coutinho] to stay, but at the end of the day it’s what he wants and I want him to be happy.
“Let’s see. Until the last day of the transfer market we will not know if he stays or not. But it’s not my decision, it’s the club’s and Philippe’s.”
Barcelona won the Spanish La Liga last season but were stung in the Champions League after losing an epic semi-final to eventual champions Liverpool.
— With inputs from agencies