DAN Morgan contributed an excellent piece about Philippe Coutinho to The Anfield Wrap website recently and I could completely understand the sentiment, writes SIMON ALKIN.
It seems to me to be one shared by the majority of the fanbase. Broadly speaking (and this of course glosses over the eloquence with which his piece was written), he wrote about how our hearts have hardened over time through the years of broken loyalty, both towards and from the club, and inglorious departures, from Robbie Fowler to Fernando Torres to Luis Suarez to Steven Gerrard. He also reiterated the idea (one with which I broadly agree) that if Coutinho truly does knuckle down and that helps the club to have a great season, then it will become a lot easier to forgive him in the long run.
However, after reading I felt the need to try to present a not necessarily contradictory, but alternative, viewpoint and express just why some of us will find it a challenge to truly forgive or respect the player again.
To me, the notion that fans are hurt at him wanting to leave the club in the first place is a red herring. Of course any of us reading or writing on this site adore Liverpool and would love to believe that there’s nowhere better. As Jamie Carragher famously, brilliantly, once put it: “who’s bigger than Liverpool?”.
But none of us are stupid. We’re aware (sometimes too aware, but that’s another discussion) of footballing realities and the idea of a certain hierarchy in the European game. A fading force they may be, but to most players, Barcelona are unquestionably a bigger draw than us. This is especially true for a kid who’s grown up in Rio with no sentimental connection to Liverpool. Coutinho wanting a move to Barcelona is what I’d expect, and it would be naive in the extreme to think he wouldn’t. That’s football and anybody demanding absolute allegiance, or that a player should love the club as much as we do, is dreaming.
Another idea that distracts from, or misses, the point, is that too many fans idolise the individual and are sad or hurt by the prospect of their hero leaving. This possibly harks back to Torres departing for Chelsea under a cloud and in doing so, breaking the hearts of Reds the world over. It would certainly be fair to say that many resolved never to become too attached to individual players again after that episode. Speaking personally I couldn’t care less about the individual, and haven’t really since I was a teenager, my only true love for the players is in how they serve this club.
But neither point, whether myth or reality, should deflect from Coutinho’s actions, or distract from the real bone of contention for some of us. That is, the manner in which he has gone about things.
To me, the absolute flagrant disrespect and contempt for the club for refusing to simply bow to his wish (in an extremely tough situation) strays dangerously close to unforgivable. I can’t help feeling there’s been too much of a shoulder shrug among fans and media, as if to say, “well, modern football’s desensitised us to this, there’s nothing surprising in it anymore; better just take it and we’ll love him like before when he starts banging goals again.”
Perhaps my thinking is a little rose tinted, but it just feels strange to me to accept that players can seemingly do whatever they like these days, even deliberately spoiling their club’s preparations, only to be forgiven because they might come back and do their jobs after all the nonsense dies down.
I for one won’t forget Coutinho’s transfer request less than 24 hours before our first match of the season, designed to cause maximum distraction and disruption. I won’t forget his camp leaking negative (and likely false) stories to Sky about his bad relationship with Jürgen Klopp, completely undermining a man under whom he’s enjoyed the best form of his career. I won’t forget him missing weeks of vitally important games with a “back injury” only to then fly halfway around the world and play for his country.
Even Virgil van Dijk served Southampton notice from the start of the summer that he wanted to move, rather than dropping that particular bomb right before his club’s first game. Even Alexis Sanchez has made himself available for selection and not leaked stories about his manager. Even Suarez in 2013, for all his agitating and disrespect, could claim he’d had verbal promises broken, and was denied a move after his release clause was met. Coutinho signed a huge deal this year with no such conditions and can’t cling to any of the above as mitigation.
You’d rather be a support act to Lionel Messi than be a headliner here? Fine, no one can condemn you for that. Careers are short and nobody demands that you hang around forever. You treat the club with respect and they’ll almost certainly grant your wish as soon as the situation works for both sides. But even the most basic, minimum levels of that respect have been absolutely trampled upon and I’d argue the player’s behaviour has been nothing less than a disgrace. The idea that this is modern football and that we’ve seen it all before shouldn’t make it OK. A line has been crossed here, maybe worse than we’ve ever seen before.
Dan’s right when he says that Coutinho may still be able to leave with his head held high, maybe even with many of the fans singing his name. We’re unquestionably a better team with him in it, and taking Liverpool back to the top, if only as a fleeting, perfect, parting moment would surely grant absolution. But we’ve all got a long way to go to get there. Suarez blasted his way back to favour, though it took one of the great individual seasons in club history and a thrilling title challenge to earn it. Time for some serious fence mending, Phil.
Up the redemption Reds.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Are we forgetting that stevie put a transfer request in and almost left twice .so let’s forgive coutinho but not forget he might soon see through to the end of a dark tunnel and realise there s not better place to play your footy. So let’s sing his name and make him still feel the love ..coutinho o o o
stevie didn’t act like a tit about it though.
For all these irregularities and emotions – the real reason is the cunning and selfish ‘Neymar’ and for the unethical price hike the ‘PSG’.
PSG did nothing more than meet a buy out clause.
I feel exactly like you do. It really isn,t a question of forgiveness, it’s about integrity. Courtinho has none and I will always remember that. He has cheated and connived to get to Barcelona and he is not a very nice person. He has swanned back to Liverpool as though nothing has happened, which says a lot for me. Most people would feel ashamed displaying such sneaky, bad behaviour but I really think that he will not be bothered. Klopp must feel some upset over the whole sorry saga. However he is putting on a brave face because the way the press twist everything he has got to be very careful, and he is intelligent enough to do just that. I think most of what was written came from courtinho he just didn’t,t have the guts to say it himself upfront. I will be glad to see a player that can,t be trusted, who has no loyalty or respect to leave Liverpool. Not all fans are silly about players, a lot of it is just hype. I loved courtinho as a player and at first wanted to keep him but my feelings turned to disgust. I am just glad that fsg stood up to Barcelona and behaved admirably compared to all the lies that came from Spain.
I don’t feel this is as bad as Suarez. At least Coutinho kept his mouth shut and didn’t talk to the press, he also wasn’t angling for a sideways move to one of our premier league rivals. Agreed, timings were deliberately disruptive, but how much of that was engineered by him?
Understand what you mean, but to me, the argument that Coutinho didn’t go to the press himself doesn’t hold water. Perhaps he didn’t speak out publicly, but is there not something even more dishonest and sneaky about having your ‘camp’ leak stuff about the manager (which probably isn’t even true), than simply going and speaking yourself as Suarez did. Not to condone his behaviour either, but I’d argue that at least what he did was up front, stayed at least mostly respectful to the manager, and some of his grievances were somewhat valid.
Interesting you raise Suarez…
He made Kenny look an absolute fool with the handshake stuff. I think he was pretty despicable for that but he’s still held up as a “legend” because he’s brilliant at football. I suspect the same thing might happen here with Couts.
I have no issue with him wanting to go to Barca. In fact if he’d asked in May I would’ve wished him all the best and I think a lot of other fans would too. But to drop that request in before the Watford game and then to absent himself for the Hoffenheim matches, in which our season could’ve been ruined, should not be forgotten. Cheer when he scores yeah, but why should fans forgive him? I think the conversation would be VERY different if we’d have gone out of the champions league…
the handshake was the least of his misdemeanours. Lets add racism, violent conduct for the second time, giving the finger to fans.
Coutinho doesn’t even come close in comparison. Although, to my mind, there is zero comparison here. None at all.
Where have you been FFS, the only racist in that incident was the manc French bidet. Our club’s lawyers should have been wellied over allowing them them to translate the little worm’s Spanish into English for the court docs. ‘Saduka’ became ‘South American’ and the court went: ‘Nothing wrong with that then; why did he refer to him as ‘Negrito’? Ignoring the arguments about the nature of that term, suffice it to say Suarez’s own Grandfather was known by that nickname within the family, being of mixed race. If the melts had had him saying ‘Little Black Guy’ in response, the mancs’s legal team would have had to expose their translation to protest our statement. Too stupid for words! Then, that brings us back to your ill-informed bilge above…Crenit!
you ok mate? long day?
Great post. Also there was no evidence of any witness or tv footage. Should have just said prove it. Jumped the gun.
On coutinho…. why have this stance all summer and then not integrate him back in the squad, madness???
We need to grow up and look at the bigger picture. Coutinho should be introduced back but slowly. Lad could be the difference to a good season and a great one
Would that be a cretin who can’t spell?
Spot on mate.
I don’t know why people point to Stevie G when the Coutinho issue comes up. Stevie was busy negotiating a new contract ,if memory serves me, and the club would have had time to search for a replacement. Coutinho put us over a barrell almost at the start of the season, before a champions league qualifier. he then feigns injury and rubs salt in by appearing as a sub for his country. Nowhere near the same and for me it’s not something to be glossed over, who’s to say it won’t re-appear in January?
Crowing at Coutinho for putting in a transfer request just before the season started and disrupting us – probably the same people desperately refreshing twitter, or following flight paths on Aug 31st for news on Virgil van Dijk.
Sometimes its just how circumstances work out – polite conversations in June, become tense discussions in July and a stand-off in August. It’s just how it goes. By it’s very nature a transfer request is the last resort – both financially for the player and in terms of breaking any existing contract, therefore its generally last in the window.
It’s not so long ago that the window didn’t exist at all – players moving at all times in the season, and usually at last minute notice to up sticks and move a few hundred miles to a new club as the manager has flogged you off.
The whole escapade was unedifying and I’m somewhere between both camps – I doubt I will ever quite feel the same grá for him and at the same time I want him to burst his boots for us this year as a form of recompense. What should not be overlooked here is that this episode could mark a defining moment in the recent history of the club, since it came at a weird nexus in the game whereby we were being offered ludicrous amounts of money in the most cashed-up transfer window ever, and we held firm. The optics of how it panned out sends the statement to all players present and future: this is the destination, not a stopping point along the way. And if you decide you want some la Liga action, it will only happen on our terms. It is the stance befitting a club of our stature. Plus, it has had the bonus effect of showing up Barca as being a lesser entity, scratching around for signings and excuses.
On an immediate level PC has a lot to do to win us back and I hope our next stars – Woodburn, Lemar, et al – will never try anything similar. It is possible that the manner in which the club has handled this case means it is less likely to happen again in future.
As bad as this situation with Couthino was, I prefer to give credit to a player that has shown character not often seen these days. The Ox chose to come to our wonderful club when he could have made significantly more money at Arsenal or with the Champions Chelsea. Why a big deal isn’t being made of this I don’t understand. This is a guy who chose the atmosphere of a club and tge quality of its manager over money. He wanted to be in a situation where the game came before money. Hats off to Mr Chamberlain! Phil could learn a lot from him.
If I’m honest Simon I personally feel that the ‘games gone’ argument is a little old and weary. As a fourty something bloke I’ve heard that all my footballing life. Football’s not changed we’ve changed. What’s changed is the gap between them and us. Those who have and those who have not. What’s also changed is the voice of the dissenting minority over the silence of the apathetic majority.
Dan’s right in my view and I suspect in the view of most in that, he pulls on a red shirt, he’s plays well, we win games. Whether we like Phil or not, whether we believe he’s shown ‘flagrant disrespect’ to our club, we still play footy on a Saturday afternoon, we still support a team in red, we still March up the hill.
Speaking of the ‘disrespect’, what is known about his behaviour? All we know is that a) he sent an email and b) his timing was abismal. That is all we know. Nothing more.
Let’s take a step back, do I love Phil? Perhaps, as it seems, he’s a decent lad, I’ve no idea. Do I love a creative player that can set tempo and smash a worldly in? All day long. Am I willing to get behind the players irrespective of their misgivings? Whilst they’re on the pitch, yes.
So let’s all take a breath. A young lad has ambition, he thinks he’s worth more, he wants to play in a decent climate in a country where he can speak the lingo. That alone does not make him a disgrace. Maybe more facts will emerge which will make me change my view. Until that point. Up the Reds.
In life, it’s generally accepted that if someone has the chance to climb a career ladder you don’t stand in their way. It’s just how it is. We did for our own selfish reasons. I’m made up about that but we’ve denied him what is his right as an individual more than what any contract says. He had a right to fight back. I’d be more concerned if our players performances were affected by the request more than the timing of his request.
I can’t forgive him, I have to show him that I’m hurt. He has to know. Come on, he’s not your girlfriend. I expect to see him on Wednesday and if anyone around me boo’s him I’m gonna pull them on it. Klopp would be livid too if he heard it. He doesn’t need it destabilising things. I pray no one embarresses our club. We all play the game, Mane’s fuckin great, he turned Utd down for us. He loves Liverpool. It’s a natural thing to do and it’s a fun thing to do. When Mane leaves though I won’t be hating him all of a sudden. I’ve learned in life you shouldn’t put people on a pedestal. Players come and go and none of them are here forever. Coutinho will probably only be here 9 months. Don’t miss out on appreciating him and sit there sulking. Enjoy it!! Certainly don’t make a tit of yourself and boo him. I’m sure you wouldn’t but I fear someone will.
Hi Robin how’ve you been? Hope you had a great summer and ready for another exciting ride with us crazy Reds.
Good post btw. Had me chuckling at this “I can’t forgive him, I have to show him that I’m hurt. He has to know. Come on, he’s not your girlfriend.”
Don’t have the same love about Coutinho as I did for Torres or Gerrard, but I still agree that as an employee he is entitled to manage his career the way it helps him. He didn’t go bite someone which seemed like a cheap shot especially after Suarez did it at Ajax, etc.
Coutinho is still very young and being in the limelight must be tough too.
Anyways even if I had the same adoration for Coutinho I for one would be happy if he did just best and moved on when time came for him and the club to split.
Irrespective of the drama I hope we are ready for City. They aren’t going to lie down like Arsenal.
Come on you Reds!
Hi sash. Yeah all good ta. Had a nice summer. Hope your exhibits went well. Nervous about today. Imagine if we got 3 points. We’d be flying. Fingers crossed mate.
I’m not one for turning players into religious icons and putting them on pedestals, so I’m not devastated when they reveal they are all too human when they crash off one. I was devastated that Suarez was going to leave, not because he went on some Uruguayan radio station but because his spectacular talent would not be in service of my beloved club – for me to witness in pleasure on a weekly basis. Even when he was trying to play for a top 4 rival. I could easily forgive for biting several human beings, so personal ambition is not criminal even when it is regrettable.
I won’t be burning any flags and, honestly, I find it tiresome and tedious when people do (literally or figuratively). Too often footie is used as an opportunity for sanctimony, and the opportunists annoy me far more than anyone who has ever put on the shirt.
Leave that bullshit to the Tories. YNWA
The article is naive. Give Walter his own column. Spot on mate.
“Even Suarez in 2013, for all his agitating and disrespect, could claim he’d had verbal promises broken, and was denied a move after his release clause was met. Coutinho signed a huge deal this year with no such conditions and can’t cling to any of the above as mitigation.”
This comment, along with your version of what Liverpool and Van Dijk were up to, is a bit self-serving for our club. For example, while holding out against Arsenal’s attempt to trigger Suarez’s release clause, which apparently we managed to do on a technicality in how it was written, we are happy to push RB Leipzig to the letter of their release clause on Naby Keita, which comes into effect next year. And the club is currently, with Klopp’s backing, wanting to prevent Emre Can from even having a release clause in his new contract. But you’re pointing out that Coutinho had no such clause, as something to be held against him, when it’s the club’s policy not to include them in contracts. It’s standard practice in Spain and Germany.
Coutinho’s head was turned by Barcelona, understandably, and he did what they and his agent pushed him to do, to get the deal over the line. Liverpool stood firm, and he’s staying, at least for now. Like Van Dijk is, and like Sanchez is, at Arsenal. Let’s just move on, and hope that Coutinho has a good season. In fact, let’s help him have a good season (it’s in our interests, after all) by getting behind him.
Release clauses are rare in this country. Not giving Can one is no different.