Barcelona unveil $192 million man Coutinho
Philippe Coutinho has described his 160-million-euro ($192 million) move to Barcelona as “a dream come true” with coach Ernesto Valverde predicting the Brazilian will comfortably fit into a team already containing global superstar Lionel Messi.
The 25-year-old playmaker, the world’s third most expensive footballer after securing a long-desired transfer from Liverpool, will be officially presented to the world’s media on Monday from 1130 GMT.
But in a club video message released on Sunday, Coutinho, who posed for photographers at the Camp Nou wearing a tracksuit top in the colours of the team, insisted: “I want to play, win trophies and make the supporters happy. Those are my objectives.
“Barca fans, I’m here now. It’s a dream come true! I hope to see you tomorrow (Monday).”
Coutinho has agreed a deal through to 2023 and is looking forward to playing alongside Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta.
He described them as well as club stalwarts Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets as “idols”.
Coutinho has already played alongside Suarez for 18 months at Liverpool before the Uruguayan made the same move to Spain in 2014.
“Everybody knows about his quality. He has been playing at the highest level for years now and that is important,” said Suarez.
“Now we need to make sure he feels at home because we know that changing club is always difficult, but I think he is the type of player who will fit well into the team.”
Valverde admitted that it will be a challenge shoehorning his new recruit into a squad which is running away with the Spanish league title.
“Coutinho is a player who I think can bring a lot to us,” said Valverde. “He’s an important signing.”
“I have seen him play in various positions, on the right, the left, in the middle, on the wings. We will evaluate all of this…but, of course, I don’t think he will play as a goalkeeper!”
Blow for Liverpool
The swoop for Coutinho, which contains a 400 million-euro release clause, is the third biggest transfer in football history.
It is outranked only by Paris Saint-Germain’s world record 222 million-euro signing of Neymar from Barcelona last year, and PSG’s capture of French striker Kylian Mbappe for a deal that will eventually be worth 180 million euros.
Rio-born Coutinho arrived at Liverpool from Inter Milan for a mere £8.5 million ($11.5 million) in January 2013 and scored 54 goals for the club in all competitions, although he won no silverware during his five-year stay at Anfield.
Barcelona had tried to sign Coutinho last summer and his departure is a blow to Liverpool as he had just returned to top form after an injury-hit start to the season, scoring seven goals in the last eight games of 2017 to put his side firmly in the Champions League places.
“It is no secret that Philippe has wanted this move to happen since July, when Barcelona first made their interest known,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
“Philippe was insistent with me, the owners and even his teammates this was a move he was desperate to make happen.”
For Barcelona, Coutinho’s signing allows the club to move on from the bitter experience of losing his Brazil teammate Neymar to Qatar-backed PSG.
Coutinho’s age is also highly attractive to Barca with Messi, Suarez and Iniesta all in their thirties.
Liverpool have been tipped to quickly reinvest their windfall from the Coutinho sale.
Despite already paying Southampton 85 million euros ($102 million) for defender Virgil van Dijk, Klopp will be chasing an attacker with Leicester City’s Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez and Monaco midfielder Thomas Lemar already linked with a switch to Anfield.
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