Selling Philippe Coutinho has split opinion in the football world. Regarded widely as Liverpool’s best player, it’s easy to get wrapped up in ‘selling club’ nonsense. Elsewhere, you will find people who find the fee such good value that Liverpool have got a brilliant deal.
As ever, the reality is somewhere between the two extremes. Coutinho might be Liverpool’s best player (Mohamed Salah says hello, by the way), and he might be midway through the best season of his career, but the fee received was so enormous it could, if spent correctly, rejuvenate this Liverpool squad that has such clear weaknesses.
Any club will be reluctant to lose an individual as integral as Coutinho. English clubs are all faced with this conundrum, however. Even Manchester United at the peak of their powers could not hold off the advances of Real Madrid.
Coutinho’s 12 goals and eight assists in the Premier League and Champions League to this point reflect how good a season he has been having. His undeniable talent was more productive this year, with Liverpool becoming one of the most feared attacking sides in the world.
Liverpool’s progression is why they should be so confident post-Coutinho. Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Adam Lallana remain. Jurgen Klopp is not suddenly short of options. And, most importantly, they are about to be joined by the utterly brilliant Naby Keita.
I happen to think it would be unnecessary for Liverpool to spend the reported £20 million to bring Keita’s signing forward. His arrival, though, goes a long way to filling the gap left by Coutinho.
Keita can do it all. He can pass, shoot, carry the ball, and will offer more out of possession than the Brazilian. The Guinean is the perfect player for Liverpool’s 4-3-3, and, the departure of Coutinho solves a potential problem for Klopp as it would have been quite a challenge to fit them into the same eleven.
Whether he arrives in the next couple of weeks or summer, Keita will slot right into Coutinho’s midfield position. Assuming the RB Leipzig midfielder settles, there’s every chance Liverpool are more balanced, effective side post-Coutinho.
Aside from the arrival of one of the best young players in the world, the money that Liverpool pocketed from Coutinho’s departure makes it hard to look unfavourably on the transfer.
Spending was probable in this window and summer anyway, but the bank balances at Anfield look a fair bit healthier after a wantaway player was sold. That always seems a good deal.
Virgil van Dijk has already arrived to reinforce the defence.
The next step will probably be a defensive midfielder – Kevin Strootman has been linked – a goalkeeper, and maybe another centre-back. The sale of one player – whose replacement was already on his way – will enable a full refurbishment of Liverpool’s most suspect positions.
Liverpool do not need to rush to replace Coutinho, or do anything else in this window necessarily. The inflated January prices will inch up even higher for a club carrying £140 million around with them. That money may well go a lot further in the summer, and give the club time to identify the right targets.
Keita’s impending arrival lessens the clamour for Coutinho mark II. That alone makes this whole situation much more manageable.
Written by Sam Cox
Follow Sam on Twitter @SamRCox_
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