A Nou Chapter: How Liverpool Can Move On After Philippe Coutinho’s Departure

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 30, 2017: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia applauds the supporters as he is substituted during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool and Leicester City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

IN 2018 so far Liverpool have broken the world record for signing a defender, Ragnar Klavan has scored a goal, The Reds won a Merseyside derby with a late winner from said record signing, the FA have opened an investigation into an incident from that game, and the club have sold one of their star players, making him the second most expensive footballer of all time.

It’s only the bloody eighth of the month!

Any Liverpool fans hoping to take part in “Dry January” are being tested more than anyone to maintain their sobriety given the various goings on involving the club since last Monday. I have a recommendation for all of you. Jib it and instead do “Gin-uary”, in which every time Jürgen Klopp’s side make the news, take a swig of gin (or whatever alcohol is close to hand). If you really must feel better about your drinking then go dry in February. It’s almost half a week shorter anyway.

Now that Philippe Coutinho’s £142million move to Barcelona is confirmed, we can all finally move on from this unpleasant soap opera. There have already been plenty of excellent articles, not least on this very website, about the whys and wherefores of the move for both player and club, so I won’t bother going down that avenue as well. Needless to say I’m not happy about it, but we move on.

The other top six Premier League teams will be rubbing their hands with glee at seeing Liverpool lose such a key player halfway through the season, and somewhat justifiably so. However, it’s up to Klopp and the players who still want to represent Liverpool to show that they are far from a one-man band.

Indeed, it has been generally accepted that this Reds side was at the very least a four-piece. The short-lived “Fab Four” moniker was on t-shirts, banners and in newspaper headlines faster than you could say “laboured nickname” once it became apparent that Coutinho, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were all shit hot at football together. It was a tag that Klopp clearly wasn’t comfortable with though, and on some level there may even be relief from him that it’s been nipped in the bud this early. “Fab Three” sounds rubbish.

He will be fully aware though of how much his squad will be weakened with the loss of the little magician. There were valid arguments made on the latest free TAW podcast that the style of player Coutinho is does not entirely go with what Klopp traditionally looks for in a player, but that his sheer quality and, in recent years at least, numbers mean that you find a way to incorporate him. If you were to offer Klopp a player of Coutinho’s ability he’d absolutely have him, but offer him a similar style player with less ability and you fancy he’d turn his nose up so fast his glasses would fly off.

Mane and Salah were Klopp buys though. Very deliberate and considered options brought in to execute his plan of attack. Firmino was already at Anfield, but as Klopp has acknowledged, it was a happy coincidence for him as his attributes perfectly compliment what the German manager wants to achieve on the field. Coutinho never felt quite as “square peg in a square hole” though. It was a rounder hole, but by God it was a beautiful peg, so you just made it work. Now that he has the chance to hand pick a replacement, perhaps Klopp will look for a top-class version of something a little more him.

However, there are concerns about the reports coming out that Klopp might wait until the summer to make his move in the transfer market to replace the Brazilian. Those are perfectly valid concerns, and would no doubt leave Liverpool heading into the second half of the season weaker than they were in the first. However, I’d also take those reports with two great handfuls of salt.

The world knows that Liverpool have oodles of cash burning a hole in their pocket, despite the amount spent on Virgil van Dijk. As soon as names like Thomas Lemar and Riyad Mahrez came up, you can guarantee Monaco and Leicester looked at Klopp like a cartoon bag of money with blonde hair, glasses, a tooth-filled grin and a Euros sign on it. By making it known that he can take or leave a replacement in January, Klopp perhaps starts to erode the inevitable premium that would come for any buyer who is making it known they are absolutely desperate to get someone, anyone, in now and only now.

So what options are there?

Personally I’m in agreement with Neil Atkinson, who said on this week’s pod that the immediate replacement needs to be someone who can predominantly play a part in the front three. Mane, Salah and Firmino are just lovely, but there’s not much below that at the moment. With The Reds still in three competitions, it would be ambitious to think they can play in all of them and no injuries or suspensions will occur. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana can play in the wide roles, but it’s not where you get the best out of them, while Dominic Solanke may be a terrific striker in two-three years, but isn’t there yet, and it looks like Danny Ings and/or Daniel Sturridge will be elsewhere by February.

The ideal option, in my opinion, would be to try for Lemar now as he’s clearly a main target and can play in both positions that Coutinho has left behind, though it looks like Monaco are going to play hardball again, and while the player may want an Anfield move, he doesn’t seem the type to go to, shall we say, Coutinho lengths to force a move now.

I’m not a big fan of the idea of bringing Naby Keita in early to be honest. Sure it’d be nice to do so, but the club would surely have to pay a huge premium to do that considering the only reason he’s leaving RB Leipzig at all is because of a release clause that doesn’t come into effect until the summer. Liverpool would end up paying potentially 10s of millions of pounds to bring in a player who will be here in six months anyway and who can’t play in the Champions League.

If Lemar isn’t possible now, then I would go a bit left field and look for someone who can play, err, on the left of the field. Another former flame seems available now in the shape of Alex Teixeira. There’s obvious immediate concerns that he’s spent the last two years in China playing with lads who would struggle to get a game at Tranmere Rovers. However, he is a player Liverpool and Klopp have been very interested in before, and who usually plays wide but shows enough of a natural goalscoring instinct that he could also be used in Firmino’s role, but is also coming from a situation where he’d probably reasonably accept being the fourth option to fill three spots.

He’s quick, a tricky dribbler and has an eye for goal, scoring 39 times in 37 games across two seasons in the Ukrainian Premier League between 2014 and 2016 before heading to China. His record for Jiangsu Suning hasn’t been as impressive (still not bad though), but then being surrounded by significantly lesser players must have an effect. Andrea Pirlo looked relatively ineffective in the MLS simply because only one or two of his New York City FC teammates were anywhere near the same level.

Teixeira would also be available to play in the Champions League, and of course there’s the Brazilian aspect, meaning Bobby Firmino might not have to set one less place at the table for his dinner parties.

He desperately wanted to come to Liverpool in 2016 before his former club Shakhtar Donetsk slapped an unreasonable price tag on him that Klopp refused to meet. It was strange that he then went to the Chinese league, but the impression at the time was it was either China or stay in Ukraine, which he clearly didn’t want to do.

He has apparently been transfer listed by Jiangsu Suning manager Fabio Capello (you would have to assume for financial reasons given he’s comfortably the club’s best player), and so could well be gettable for significantly less than the £38m he went for in 2016, and certainly the £50m+ that his former club Shakhtar Donetsk reportedly asked Liverpool for back then.

There’s elements of risk to it, as there is any deal, but with the market the way it is now a £20-30m player can not quite work out and you can still at least make your money back. It also feels like one of those that could pay off big style if it does work. The same scouts that felt Salah, Mane, van Dijk and Keita were all worthy of going after also put forward this guy two years ago, so there is clearly a lot in the player that they like and they think Klopp will like. It seems to me like a risk worth taking if the initial option of Lemar is a no go for now. But then maybe I’m just a romantic who is more concerned that Firmino will be dancing on his own next time he scores in front of The Kop.

That’s just an idea though. If Klopp wants to get a new goalkeeper and Lemar instead then I’ll be doing some form of inappropriate and elaborate happy dance.

The absolute last-choice scenario for Klopp has to be sticking with what he’s got. Well, second to last behind making a Mario Balotelli-esque signing.

That said, it’s not like this is a terrible team without Coutinho. As mentioned frequently elsewhere, Liverpool have won 10 of the 12 games they’ve played without him this season, and the two games they didn’t win were the draw at Watford, where conceding rather than scoring was the issue, and the hammering at Manchester City, which you’d have to be pretty sure would have occurred with or without the £142m man.

With Lallana back from injury and Oxlade-Chamberlain hitting good form, the midfield looks like it will be strong enough for the time being. It will be strengthened heavily in the summer with the arrival of Keita (assuming that move isn’t brought forward), and likely at least one other once Emre Can leaves, but Can, Gini Wijnaldum, Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain, with Jordan Henderson to come back too is sufficient in terms of numbers and quality without needing to go and spend ludicrous sums persuading someone to part with a star player halfway through the season (as Barcelona have just done, for example).

That said, Ivan Rakitic sounds pretty pissed off with Coutinho’s signing. Perhaps get Dejan Lovren to have a word and see if Barca’s goodwill from this deal can stretch to making a belated swap.

The magician is dead (well, he’s left anyway). Long live the Reds who still want to wear the shirt.

Now pass me that gin.

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30 Comments

  1. Alex Teixeira

  2. “How Liverpool Can Move On After Philippe Coutinho’s Departure?”

    Stop writing articles about him for starters. :)

    • Sash, common, don’t act like a jealous lover. Coutinho has given us a good five years playing with Balloteli, Lambert in front of him and supported in midfield by Shelvy and Spearing. He deserves to be in the cloud with Messi and Suarez. Let go Sash, let go :))

      • Hey Josh, My comment since you missed it by a mile, is why bother, he’s moved on, so should we all, including the writers on TAW unless clickbait is need.

        Calling me a jealous lover from you Josh? Come on never was enamored of Coutinho unlike Torres and Suarez. They were special and to each their own.

        Perhaps you missed my earlier comments by a mile as well.

        Carry on.

  3. The lad’s gone let the tabloids preoccupy themselves with him and just regard him as a former player whose departure left a lot to be desired. Klopp knows exactly what he wants so as Slade said the future has “only just begun” and I’m looking forward to it.

  4. I believe in Klopp’s ability to strengthen the team further with the type of players who will give 100% commitment to the course.

    Without Phil, our front three of Mane, Bobby and Salah will still score ie three instead of five. But put Kieta in midfield with the likes of Hendo, Lallana, Can, Gini or Ox, and our team will not conceed as many goals anymore. Of course with VVD marshaling the back line.

    Believe!!!!

  5. Missing out on the top four would make the summer window very difficult. A shot at winning the Cl this yr needs a replacement for Pc.Should of bought a new striker before he was sold. Are Lfc subsidising the Red Sox?!

  6. Mahrez for Fifty mill seems the best bet.

  7. It’s a great shout Teixeira. Bet he’d be desperate … good half season & Champions League run could get him near the Selecao, last chance saloon and all that.

  8. Seems there is no point in buying potential these days. Spend years developing the player (or them giving you a few good years as people strangely put it) and when they look like they are really going to be something they move on.
    So splashing that cash on some actual quality seems the best method to me. Whatever the fee. An out and out goalscoring machine plus a a world-class keeper.
    Either that or rebuild Anfield brick by brick somewhere between Catalonia and Madrid then every Brazilian will want to come and play ’cause they speak the language.

    • We’ve just made a profit of £133.5 million because we bought potential. If we follow your advice and get into a money contest with the likes of City and United, we’ll lose. Every time. We have to do both, but be very careful when spending huge, as if it’s a disaster, we can’t just absorb it the way richer clubs can.

      • Surely it’d be better to spend 80+ on an almost dead cert than buying 5 lazer markovics. I dont know im not an economist. I’ve no idea how much cash is available to spend or how that compares to some other rich club. Tbh it already looks like the club is up for spending with Virgil signing – even though they knew money was coming in from the Brazilian.

        • “Surely it’d be better to spend 80+ on an almost dead cert than buying 5 lazer markovics.”

          This is a silly premise.

          For a start, I could say “surely it would be better to buy 5 Phil Coutinho’s than 1 Andy Carroll.” Secondly, nobody is a dead cert, regardless of what you spend. Thirdly, it isn’t just the transfer fee, it’s the wages that go along with it. We might have the money to buy one £80m+ player every year, but we (a) probably couldn’t attract them all and (b) don’t have the money to pay them all if we did. And finally, you’re ignoring that we just can’t get into this sort of contest with the Manchester clubs and Chelsea – they have far more money so will always win. They’ll buy the top world class £100-140 million players, we’ll be getting the very good £70-£100 million players.

          For this reason it’s right we take chances on younger players but when one top quality player becomes available and he wants to join, then we nab him. Signing a Van Dijk will be rare. If Hazard, Isco, Bale, De Bruyne etc were for sale tomorrow, would any of them be interested in joining us? No. And that’s with CL football. Now imagine we finish 5th and we want a top, top player in the summer.

          • Agree totally. I think Klopp has done a great job in terms of essentially shopping at 3 price levels. Basement level where he has picked up Matip, Robertson, Klavan, Grujic, Solanke and Karius – he has essentially funded this by selling players such as Smith, Steward, Illori, Luis Alberto, Wisdom. There are some major upgrades there, even Karius who came in for Jones. Mid-range where he has picked up players such as Salah, AOC and Mane and taken them to a new level, offset by sales such as Allen, Benteke, Sakho, Ibe. This has allowed him to pay a premium for players in a higher bracket (at point of purchase) in terms of VVD and Keita. So I am pretty confident he will use the PC windfall well.

          • Nice one Baggio for bringing a bit of sense to the table. Of course we have to buy players at all price levels. The key i guess is buying players ready to play at this level.
            Baz.. I’m a bit lost with this discussion now but i’m not sure where Andy Carol comes into any sensible conversation. Who are you comparing him? Not sure he was ever proven quality just because he’d bagged a few for Newcastle.

          • The Truth – (a) Baggio was agreeing with me so it’s strange you’d see him as bringing sense to the table, and (b) Carroll comes into it because you were talking about spending a lot (£80m+) on one player. We did that with Carroll. And I was using his example as a stupid premise to counter your stupid premise of “5 lazar markovics,” as you completely ignored that we spent far more on Markovic than we did Coutinho.

            Your argument is to buy big and that there is no point buying potential, which is ludicrous for all the arguments I’ve laid out above. But you keep ignoring them, and the fact we’ve just made ourselves £133 million on the back of buying potential, and the fact quite a few big transfers go wrong, if it makes you happy.

    • Paul Simpson

      Brazilians speak Portuguese. You indicated an area in Spain didn’t you?

  9. Excellent article which i found after googleing recent articles about Teixeira. Many similarities between him and Coutinho to say the least… product of the same academy (Vasco), same agent behind big money move (Kia Joorabchian), same position (LMC, LW, AMC) and pretty much the same style of play and strenghts… Alex only 2 years older. I for one think that we could use a player of Teixeiras age and style of play. An experienced player still good for one big contract, and the best part would be that the ”galactico” clubs would probably be put off by his age no matter how good he could turn out to be. IF there is anything in the story that he could be transferlisted by his chinese club, it could definitely be a risk worth taking. The guy pretty much sold his future in the Selecao for money by moving to China but anybody that talented deserves a second go.

  10. Teixeira for £25m would be a proper moneyball signing in the eyes of the owners. It’s just a question of whether we need to take that risk now we are flush with cash. I can’t say I’ve watched him much but his goals record, versatility and price mean he would be a good one to get in now if w can’t get Lemar or Mahrez.

  11. Fuck sake the defeatism from Rob and the other guy is pitiful.

    “Bigger clubs come in, nothing we can do”.

    Fuck that. We’re Liverpool so don’t tell me Barce and Real are some giants compared to us. They aren’t. They have much bigger stadiums, which make them seem much bigger, but trophy wise Barce are on 5 European cups like us and their history is lesser before Messi arrived.

    • You’re living in fantasy land mate. Barca and Madrid are the two biggest clubs in the world. Measure it in whatever way you want – trophies, stadiums, number of fans, revenue, desire of players. When they want a player, they get him. It just isn’t like that for anyone else, even Munich, PSG or United, never mind us. Having a bigger stadium is part of being a bigger club. There is nothing seeming about it. And Messi did arrive, so you can’t say that doesn’t count. Would be like me arguing Arsenal are a bigger club than us if you take out Dalglish.

      It’s all well and good wanting to back us, but you have to live in reality and acknowledge the facts.

  12. Geoff Twentyman

    Nice “outside of the square” thinking Dave!

    I was only thinking about Tex and Oscar being stranded in China just recently, but fear that 2 years playing inferior opposition might mean a period of adjustment. Don’t mind it as a moneyball-esque longer term squad rotation acquisition, but would be concerned with whether he could hit the ground running.

  13. I would rather we bought a world class player in centre midfield. Strengthen the spine, in addition to VVD, and we can finish 2nd by being much more solid and keeping clean sheets, while the front three will still score 2-3 goals most games with AM support from Oxlade and Lallana (and Keita next year). Goes without saying get a really good keeper, but expect we have to wait until summer for that one.

  14. well I was waiting for some intelligent response from TAW…. still waiting!
    “happy about it” ??
    how can any Lfc supporters (a but you are probaly just another inflated fan) be happy about this mess;
    PC = spoiled child, crying “i want it now”
    barca = underhand cheats , borderline mobbing , and disrespectful …
    Lfc = weak
    JK = just a coach without management authority
    Henry & co (USAcorp) greedy

    JK;’s favoourites
    ,,, Mane is out of form, Salah injured, Firm, under BS pressure from FA, Lalla still on his way back..

    most of the article is tosh from “transfer gossip column” speculative at most… irgoring the damage done in moral on and off the field and the insult to true supporters, of which you are not one !
    rubbish article!

  15. Coutinho asked us to “understand his dream”….but didn’t understand ours and got off mid season.

    Its just a pity he couldn’t take his mate Moreno back to Spain.

    We sell on the quality and cant get rid of the dross.

    Put as much gloss on it as makes yiu feel better, but Coutinhos loss, along with Lijnders is a blow to the campaign.

  16. He’s gone, move on. Great price if spent well. He was not a Liverpool great far too inconsistent for that. Alex Texeira!!!!! isn’t that the guy who bombed us out and took the big payday in China??? No thanks, you’ve had your chance.

  17. OK monologue alert, but i just want to vent my feelings on the situation in an incoherent way, just like you guys do.

    I feel after the Van Dijk ‘you are my one and only’ strategy, which worked fine and we now have the bedrock of our defence. I’m not sure the same will work with Lemar. Buying off the first seller at the first price quoted just because he has the thing you need is a remarkably dumb strategy. We should be flirting with quite a few potential replacements, we need time to take a walk around, kick a few tyres, batter a few eyelids in some other stalls. Maybe you leave the market without buying anything and turn up the next day and do the same routine, maybe you do it few days in a row, you wear people down and you keep your cool. Problem is the kids are screaming in your ears to buy now, you’ve got 142 million dangling out of your pocket. This first sellers model looks the business too , but you’re just not sure if it would work in the conditions you are exposing it to. but you know he’s taking advantage of your supposed need to buy, you also somehow know he’s got a huge windfall coming in the summer after having had a successful years trading the previous year too (which you know because you are a known seller in the market) He knows the quality of his product, he knows its going to get sold eventually at the price he wants if he sells now. Another problem is this is the only market available and if you buy his products at an over-inflated price all the other sellers will hike their prices up too when you come to buy the next thing you need. Another thing to consider is there is a massive exposition coming in a few months, and the market will flood with all sorts of fancy new gadgets, some healthily priced ones will perform brilliantly at the expo and be broken before Christmas, some products will be new brands you’ve never considered buying before that are super cheap and do the absolute business. You know the savvy option is to pump most of the money into R+D making your own and blow all the sellers out of business with your superior products tied to your store with great long-term exclusivity deals. But in the end you just think, Fuck it lets blow it all on Lemar and the lad who’s keeping Ederson out of the Brazil team.

    • @Mike You’re monologue was great until the last sentence. Why retract? I think you’re most likely correct about the way Klopp views things. If he acts on Lemar or whoever this window it might be that he had it set up since losing Coutinho had already begun for him in the summer.

      However it is unlike Klopp as we have seen with VVD to just buy because some supporters are crying to spend.

      I personally take the same views you have written so far. I also think this match against City will expose certain aspects that have improved and hopefully not failures, including whether or not Coutinho is indeed sorely missed.

      Man City are the obvious favorites, but my sincere wish is that the Reds improve on the blueprint that Bristol City demonstrated this past week, and bring these guys down to earth without the need to go out and spend silly money untimely.

      Up the Reds!

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