Coutinho's first and last Liverpool XIs shows how big his mistake was


You can now surely, finally, somewhat mercifully end any thoughts of Philippe Coutinho one day returning to play for Liverpool.

Because the Brazilian has been linked with a return to Anfield almost ever since he left for Barcelona in January 2018, and it was starting to get a little tedious.

Back then it had seemed as though his career was clearly heading in one direction while Liverpool’s progress was still uncertain, but what has happened in the just over two years since could scarcely have been starker.

While Coutinho seems set to be on the transfer market again in the summer when his loan deal at Bayern Munich ends without a permanent deal, Liverpool are likely to – at some point – be crowned Premier League champions and enter a new phase of their progress under Jurgen Klopp.

Coutinho is likely to be on the market again this summer

That won’t include Coutinho, who was a much-loved player during his five years at Anfield, and will undoubtedly be an excellent signing for whichever team decides to move for him.

That won’t be Liverpool though, and perhaps their progress is making the Brazilian think that he should never have left.

In fact, when you trace their evolution from Coutinho’s debut in February 2013 to his final game in December 2017, maybe he should have realised what was to come?

Coutinho’s Liverpool debut

Liverpool 0-2 West Brom – February 11, 2013

Liverpool XI: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Henderson, Lucas, Gerrard, Shelvey, Downing, Suarez.

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Subs: Jones, Wisdom, Skrtel, Allen, Coutinho, Sterling, Borini.

Coutinho made a late cameo appearance against the Baggies

It was something of a baptism of fire for the £8.5million arrival from Inter Milan on a cold February night at Anfield when he climbed off the bench for his debut with 12 minutes remaining, the score goalless and Steven Gerrard having just missed a penalty.

By full-time, West Brom had won 2-0.

Goals from Gareth McAuley and Romelu Lukaku sealed a win for the side managed by ex-Reds assistant Steve Clarke, as West Brom went a point above eighth-placed Liverpool in the table.

The Brazilian saw the Reds succumb to a 2-0 defeat

Brendan Rodgers, halfway through his first season in charge, was trying to establish himself in the role and get his Liverpool side playing in the manner that he wanted, with Coutinho and fellow recent signing Daniel Sturridge, who was injured here, set to be key.

Lots of development was needed though, but it would come.

Coutinho’s final Liverpool game

Liverpool 2-1 Leicester – December 30, 2017

Liverpool XI: Karius, Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Robertson, Can, Milner, Coutinho, Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Subs: Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Klavan, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Solanke.

Coutinho made his final bow against the Foxes

One thing you can never accuse Coutinho of at Liverpool is downing tools towards the end of his Reds career.

Having been denied his move to Barcelona in the summer, he displayed perhaps his best form for the club in the first half of the 2017/18 season.

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Prior to this visit of Leicester he’d scored 12 goals in 20 games, including in each of his previous three – a feat that produces the pleasing statistic of his first and last goals for the Reds both coming in 5-0 wins over Swansea.

With Virgil van Dijk watching on ahead of the confirmation of his signing, and Coutinho playing behind the rest of the ‘fab four’ of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, there was a real sense that this was a team that was heading somewhere.

Coutinho left the Reds just days later

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That said they did fall behind when Jamie Vardy struck in just the third minute, before Mohamed Salah’s brace in the second period turned the tables.

The manner of Salah’s goals – in particular his second when he expertly rolled Harry Maguire – underlined that the Egyptian was the new darling on the Kop, with Coutinho being replaced by defender Ragnar Klavan in the 89th minute.

He would never be seen in red again, and while Liverpool life since has included two Champions League finals and surely a soon-to-be confirmed Premier League title, the Brazilian’s career has gone the other way.





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