Will Newcastle Save Countinho From His Barcelona Nightmare?

Barcelona has repeatedly failed to sell Philipe Coutinho, but could Newcastle United finally end this saga? As the controversial Saudi takeover made the Premier League side the wealthiest club in the world, many expect the new board to spend big in the next transfer window, making it a likely suitor for the Brazilian.

The Tyneside club is mired in a relegation battle, so attracting big names will be tricky. But playing for the Toon will surely appeal to big-name players looking for a fresh start. The club’s new Saudi owners know that they need to splash the cash to improve the Magpies’ odds of survival. Therefore, they could pull out all the stops to try and convince Coutinho to swap the Camp Nou for St. James’ Park.  

Coutinho at Barcelona – What Went Wrong?

Coutinho was set to hit new heights after his move to Barcelona F.C in 2018. At the time, the Catalan side had Lionel Messi, £190 million to spend on reinforcements from the sale of Neymar to PSG, and needed cover for the departing Andres Iniesta. For Barça and the Brazilian, the move made perfect sense.

Upon completing the £106m transfer from Liverpool, Coutinho labelled it a ‘dream’. However, his time at Camp Nou quickly turned into a nightmare. Within a few months, it became clear that the young midfielder couldn’t fill the voids left by Neymar and Iniesta. He wanted to play more centrally than Neymar and further forward than the deep midfield role that Iniesta had held superbly for 16 years.  

Coutinho preferred to place himself in central areas to exploit the space between the opposition’s midfield and defence. The problem was that the club already had someone fulfilling that role, and Coutinho had more chances of turning water into wine than taking Messi’s place as the team’s primary creator. The Brazilian struggled to make an impact. Instead, he disrupted the team’s chemistry and frequently got in Messi’s way.

After a few poor displays, the Cules decided to cut their losses by signing Antoine Griezmann and loaning Coutinho to Bayern Munich. The Barça board hoped that the initial loan move would lead to the permanent sale of the midfielder. Yet, the German club opted against signing the Brazilian and bought Leroy Sane instead. As a result, Coutinho made his way back to Barcelona.  

Back From Bayern

Coutinho returned to a club teeming with squad problems. Messi was waging war with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu – who later resigned – Luis Suarez had left with other established players, and new manager Ronald Koeman was struggling to get results.

Despite the ongoing troubles, Coutinho became a regular starter before injuring his knee during a 1-1 draw with Eibar in December 2020. A few months later, he underwent surgery, which ended Barça’s hopes of selling him.

Newcastle to The Rescue?

When Coutinho recovered early in the season, Koeman was on his way out. Xavi Hernandez replaced him as the new boss to lift the doom and gloom surrounding the club. But the returning player was mistaken if he thought Xavi would automatically make him a regular starter.

In his first game in charge – a 1-0 catalán derbi win over Espanyol – Xavi brought the Brazilian on as a late substitute. In the following games, he continued to warm the bench. But after coming on late in the game to score a late penalty against Villarreal, the manager rewarded him with a place in the starting lineup against Real Betis. During the first few minutes of the game, it looked as if Coutinho was going to seize the moment. However, his bright start soon fizzled out, and he was replaced before Barcelona lost the tie 0-1.

After failing to convince Xavi, the new manager would likely prefer to sell the former Liverpool player than give him another chance. Yet because of his failings at Barça, it’s unlikely that a high-flying club will come knocking. But he could be the man for Newcastle.

Signing a player of Coutinho’s calibre would show that the new owners mean business. Also, the Brazilian is the sort of technical footballer that new Newcastle manager Eddie Howe admires. Yet while this transfer would add much-needed quality to Howe’s squad, is he what Newcastle needs to mount a successful Premier League survival challenge? Alone, no. Nevertheless, it might prove a winning formula if the Magpies add some steel in midfield to protect the 29-year-old playmaker.

Although the player had initially rejected the idea of playing for Newcastle, many think he’s changed his mind. With the Qatar 2022 world cup only a year away, Coutinho could move to Tyneside to get regular first-team football and improve his chances of featuring for the national side. But even if the midfielder now favours this transfer, expect his agents to play hardball to get the Magpies’ new owners to reach deep into their pockets.