What next if Coutinho agrees Barcelona switch?

Opinion

With Liverpool’s tough test against Hoffenheim just under a week away, discussions of Philippe Coutinho’s future are dominating the headlines, and are perhaps distracting Jurgen Klopp from focusing solely on the hugely important tie with the dangerous German side.

Hoffenheim stormed to fourth placed in last season’s Bundesliga through the genius of their young manager Julian Nagelsmann and his talented squad. Liverpool are however seemingly currently in a battle with Barcelona to keep hold of star player Coutinho, whose heroics would once again be gladly appreciated during both legs of the Champions League play-off tie, but only time will tell if the Brazilian will still be at Anfield this season.

With Neymar off to France, Coutinho would understandably be the ideal replacement for his international team mate, yet Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembélé may well be the man to take his place, which would of course be celebrated by the Liverpool faithful. However, if the little magician does indeed leave, what does that mean for Klopp’s squad with the new season looming? There is little time to find a suitable replacement who can naturally fit into the squad in such a quick turnover, so keeping hold of Coutinho is undeniably in the club’s best interests, but is there anyone who can step up to the plate?

With Gylfi Sigurdsson’s move to fierce rivals Everton on hold, perhaps now is the perfect moment for Jurgen Klopp to swoop in and force a deal for the highly talented midfielder. In what would be a fantastic bit of business, the club’s fears of life without their Brazilian star would be lessened if the Iceland playmaker was brought in to fill his boots. Looking at last season’s stats, along with his price tag of a mere £50m in this current market, Sigurdsson should be the number one candidate to replace Coutinho should be move on this summer.

The Swansea star chipped in with an impressive 13 assists last campaign, third in the Premier League behind Kevin De Bruyne and Christian Eriksen, both of course earning their trade at top four clubs playing behind the likes of two of the league’s deadliest strikers in Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane, while Sigurdsson’s efforts almost single-handedly saved his side from relegation. The midfielder also played more minutes than anyone for Swansea last season, sitting ninth in the overall list at an incredible 3,328 minutes, during which he managed 116 shots, again behind Eriksen in the overall list, as well as Aguero and Alexis Sanchez. Finally, and perhaps most impressively of all, the Iceland international delivered 304 crosses in the 2016/17 season, 29 ahead of De Bruyne in second.

Sigurdsson was the standout performer in a miserable season for the Welsh club, and would undoubtedly improve further under the watchful eye of Klopp and the immense talent around him in Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. Another option, albeit a hugely controversial one, would be Everton midfielder Ross Barkley who at half the asking price of Sigurdsson, would be a real bargain but an incredibly unlikely transfer. However, if this transfer window has taught us one thing it’s that anything is possible, and so an unthinkable move across the River Mersey from Barkley shouldn’t be ruled out. Once again his obvious talent would thrive in Liverpool’s attacking force, where perhaps previously his frustrations at Everton have often overshadowed just how important he can be.

With Liverpool adamant that Coutinho is not for sale, it may simply be too difficult when Barcelona come knocking with their Neymar money, but it certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. With their attacking outfit on form in pre-season, the upcoming season looks bright in terms of going forward, and so it may yet again be a case of a failing defence that is the downfall of this exciting squad. Virgil Van Dijk is of course the number one man to ease those issues, yet his signature looks more and more unlikely as we edge closer and closer to a new Premier League campaign. Klopp may have missed out on a winner with the Southampton centre-back, but perhaps may also have failed by not improving the heart of the defence altogether, especially when players including Kurt Zouma are ready for new challenge. The Belgian defender completed a somewhat peculiar loan move to Stoke earlier in the summer, where perhaps Liverpool were the ideal choice on a permanent deal, but Antonio Conte would never have sold even a fringe player to a rival club aiming for the top four.

Coutinho will break Liverpool hearts should he follow his and make the journey to Spain, yet if the Reds could keep their playmaker for just one more season and secure a Champions League spot, those fears of losing the Brazilian will be long forgotten come next summer.