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Coutinho: 160-million let-down


Football, eh!? Doing nothing or sometimes less, Dembélé's performances were being questioned, and even worse than that. Many people at Barça believed that as soon as an opportunity arose to recoup some of the outlay for the Frenchman, it should be seized. However, in just a few weeks he has become a forward in demand, a player with the ability to do the unpredictable. In parallel, Coutinho has dropped dramatically in terms of his valuation. He was seen as the 'good boy' of the two, the conventional lad, his exquisite play equalled by his behaviour, and yet... Today there is no doubt that he is a substitute for Barça, and when he does play he does so as if saddled with a sense of discouragement.

Back in the game | Barça's Ousmane Dembele gets a tap on the head from Alba.
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Back in the game | Barça's Ousmane Dembele gets a tap on the head from Alba.Denis DoyleGetty Images

The Dembélé-Coutinho paradox

Confidence is everything for a player. Dembélé, in spite of his serious injury and the disruption caused by his tardiness to training, feels secure. Every time he is taken out, he tries again, and by trying he makes things happen. Valverde has put his faith in a front three of Messi, Luis Suárez and him, who, thanks to his ability to overcome the mistrust that he created, is playing phenomenally. For Coutinho it is the opposite. It is clear that he has lost his self-confidence. He is weighed down by the 160-million fee and is finding it hard to find his place.

Heavy laden | Coutinho weighed down.
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Heavy laden | Coutinho weighed down.ALBERTO IRANZODIARIO AS

Coutinho replacing Iniesta

Coutinho arrived to 'become the new Iniesta', somewhat easier said than done. He can be pushed out wide or played through the middle, the positions Iniesta alternated between during his career. But the winger that has been chosen is Dembélé, and centrally Valverde seeks more energy than subtlety. Coutinho plays (or played) well and has an almost-trademarked shot from the edge of the area, akin to that of Kaká. Remember those? His form has since collapsed, he brings little to the game, he gives away possession (17 times against Levante) and now risks becoming one of the biggest transfer failures in history. Today he is the Isco of Barça, only that Isco cost 30 million, not 160 million. But he mustn't despair. Football is a wheel that at any moment can turn again.