Barcelona’s Iniesta replacement should not be Coutinho

Joshua Byers

There are certain rumours that greet us at this time of year so reliably that they become as much a part of the approaching summer as the joy provided by lighter nights or those mind-numbing gym adverts urging us to make a final, desperate push for a ‘beach body’.

One particularly untiring story the papers continue to regurgitate concerns Philippe Coutinho and his eternally imminent move to Barcelona. The Brazilian has had dreams of sleepovers with Neymar crushed so many times that it’s hard to imagine how he keeps on smiling.

The most recent talk of the switch claims that the price will be 90 million euros. No answer is provided as to why any club in their right mind would be prepared to pay such an exorbitant fee for the 24-year-old, but that’s what we are informed he will cost.

That figure becomes all the more perplexing when taking into account Christian Eriksen. Although there have been no figures put on the Dane’s head, it’s fair to assume he would be far less costly than Liverpool’s man.

Coutinho has a reputation as a chance creator – understandable when taking into consideration the South American‘s undoubtedly extraordinary vision – but the truth is Eriksen has been far more creative this season. In fact, he has double the amount of assists as Coutinho, registering 12 compared to six.

Even allowing for the fact the Eriksen has played more minutes in a better side, it’s quite clear which of the two has excelled in terms of their inventiveness. Another noteworthy stat is that Coutinho has created only two key passes per game, compared to the 3.1 made by his Danish counterpart.

Coutinho has scored more goals, marginally, but it would be fair to say Barcelona aren’t short of those. Neymar, Messi and Suárez have 71 goals between them this season; what Los Culés need is somebody to replace Andrés Iniesta as the side’s principal provider for the trio.

Admittedly, Eriksen wouldn’t be a like for like replacement, but would surely be more capable of performing the role than Coutinho. The former Inter man has struggled when playing in Liverpool’s midfield trio this summer, seeming to feel far more comfortable in an advanced role that would be simply unattainable in Catalunya due to the aforementioned stars.

It may be that Coutinho is the sexier of the two, but Barcelona shouldn’t be superficial when it comes to such an important decision. Nor should they bow to the pressure of Neymar, who has in the past stated a desire to play with his compatriot at club level. One would think he would eventually thank the club for signing Eriksen should they choose to.

In any case, it would set a dangerous precedent if the club were to spend one of the biggest fees in history because their third best player wants to play with his mate. Might they sign up Messi’s cat, too?

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This is all theoretical, of course; the fact that papers both in Spain and England are going in hard on the Coutinho rumours is pretty surprising considering Barcelona don’t even have a manager for the coming season yet and are presumably putting all their energy into convincing Lionel Messi to sign a new contract before working on targets.

One suspects it is more about selling papers than stars, but if the Blaugrana are looking to the Premier League for a creative midfielder, they should steer their attention towards London instead of Liverpool.

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