Only two players in footballing history (Neymar and Kylian Mbappe) have cost more than the €145m Barcelona paid for Philippe Coutinho in January 2018. While that fee was somewhat inflated by Barca’s desperation for a big name replacement for Neymar at the time, it was generally reflective of Coutinho’s status in the game.
He was a Premier League star and Liverpool’s best player. Barcelona needed a new difference-maker and Coutinho appeared to fit the bill. Many expected him, with his diminutive size and technical ability, to fit in well at the Camp Nou. That, however, did not prove to be the case as Coutinho flopped.
Now, the 29-year-old is being linked with a return to the Premier League but not with a traditional heavyweight. Instead, Leicester City are believed to be at the front of the queue to sign Philippe Coutinho this summer with Barcelona eager to get rid of the Brazilian as they attempt to bring their crippling wage bill back under control.
This might be a step down for Coutinho, who has played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, but a move to the King Power Stadium could be exactly what he needs to revive his career. He doesn’t need another loan to a super club who will use him sparingly (see his stint at Bayern Munich). Leicester City would be a good fit.
For starts, a move to Leicester City would see Philippe Coutinho reunited with Brendan Rodgers, the coach who got the best out of him at Liverpool. The Northern Irishman is thought to be driving the Foxes’ efforts to sign Coutinho such is his belief that the 29-year-old will take his team to the next level.
It’s easy to see why. The 4-2-3-1 shape used by Rodgers when Leicester City have all their best players available leaves space for a central playmaker. This is where Coutinho could operate, although he could also be deployed on the left side, where he frequently shone as a Liverpool player.
At Liverpool, Rodgers built around Philippe Coutinho as his creative hub in the final third. At Barcelona, though, the Brazilian was expected to fit into an attacking structure that was already in place. Rodgers would likely try to strike a balance between the two by adapting his system to accommodate Coutinho should he arrive at the King Power Stadium this summer
Rodgers has made great progress at Leicester City, winning the FA Cup and leading the club into the Europa League in back-to-back seasons. However, there is a sense that the Foxes need greater individual quality if they are to take the next step in their development and make their place in the top four stick for a full campaign.
Leicester City have hard workers. They have countless players willing to run faster and longer than their opponents. Rodgers has plenty to work with in that regard. What they need are more players who can break open a low defensive block when they can’t release Jamie Vardy into space in behind on the counter attack.
With Vardy now into the twilight of his career, Rodgers will have to find a direct replacement or change Leicester City’s style of play. The signing of Philippe Coutinho would help with the latter, especially if the Foxes also sign a new centre forward in the mould of someone like Odsonne Edouard. These additions could make Leicester a more possession-focused outfit.
At 29, Coutinho still has plenty time to make amends for some poor career decisions and Leicester City might just be his best option this summer. Rodgers knew how to get the best out of the Brazilian at Liverpool and there’s a good chance he could squeeze more out of him for the Foxes.
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