Philippe Coutinho: 40 times the value since Inter Milan struggles
Since moving from Vasco de Gama in 2008, the mercurial Brazilian has fought to prove himself as elite, and now has a chance against his former club.
There are not many cases where a footballer's value in the transfer marker has multiplied 40 times. Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho, however, is one and he will face up against his former club Inter Milan, where the transfer inflation story began.
Unwanted Coutinho at Inter
Inter signed Coutinho from Vasco de Gama in July 2008. The neroazzurro paid just under four million euros for a player who had been a futsal star since he was six (Philipinho they used to call him). The youngster remained in Brazil on loan for two years becoming an important player for Vasco. Then, in the summer of 2010, he made his official move to Italy after turning 18. Despite being tauted as "the future of Inter" under new manager Rafa Benitez, however he was still seen as too young and too small for Italian football and in his first season, was only involved in seven games. The following campaign saw him participate in 20 games, but only seven for the full 90 minutes. Not a lot for a player looking to reach the very top.
Then Espanyol took their chance. After a frustrating time in Italy, the creative midfielder knew that a loan spell away from Serie A was needed. In just 16 games for the Spanish side he scored five goals and started to suggest that he was indeed the real deal. Incidently he featured in the Camp Nou mauling on the day the farewell was staged for Guardiola. After returning to Inter for the 2012-13 season to give it another go, this attempt only lasted until January when Liverpool showed significant interest in the disheartened player. For Mazzarri, as before Gasperini, Ranieri and Stramaccioni, he was seen as a big loss. Coutinho left for Brendan Rodgers' team for just 13 million euros and years later Piero Ausilio said: "Selling Coutinho is one of the greatest criticisms put to me from my time as a sports director at Inter."
Revered at Liverpool
His story at Anfield before making his multi-million move to Barça is well documented. The fact is that in less than a decade, Coutinho multiplied his transfer value by 40 times, thanks in part to Neymar's PSG move that shook the market. As Inter now prepare to face their former player, the feelings are likely mixed on his behalf. On one hand he can be grateful that the Serie A side gave him his chance in Europe, and didn't prevent him from moving when he felt it necessary for his development. On the other, it is the team that didn't show enough faith in his talents to make his world stature come to fruition in the black and blue colours of Inter Milan.
Prepared for greatness at Barça
His shining performances in an entertaining Liverpool team gave Barça the chance to see a player that could potentially become Andrés Iniesta's successor. Joining midway through the season, and under the old UEFA rules that kept him out of Champions League games, Coutinho started to find his feet quickly, while not being thrown in to every encounter. This season he has already scored 4 goals and provided three assists in 12 official games. Valverde has moved him around on his blaugrana chessboard and, from the Iniesta role behind the front three, he needs to take on another responsibility: leading the side's creative element in the absence of talisman Lionel Messi. Acting as a link between the possession football of Busquets, Rakitic and Arthur and the attacking dimensions of Dembélé (or possibly Malcom) and Suarez, the upcoming games will show everyone what the Brazilian is truly capable of.
After overcoming his struggles in Milan, and then taking the 160-million burden on his shoulders, there is a clear suggestion that little Philipinho is more than prepared.