Coutinho’s huge task

Brazil­ian faces tough job of win­ning back hearts at Liver­pool

The Star (Kenya) - - Sports | International Football - BY NEIL ROBIN­SON /

Liver­pool will this week be­gin the task of rein­te­grat­ing Philippe Coutinho into their squad as the fall­out from Barcelona’s failed bid to sign the mid­fielder threat­ens to fur­ther desta­bilise his po­si­tion at An­field.

On Satur­day the Brazil­ian was of­fi­cially named in Liver­pool’s 25-man Premier League squad for the rest of the sea­son and is ex­pected back, prob­a­bly on Thurs­day, af­ter Brazil’s World Cup qual­i­fier in Colom­bia.

Al­though the 25-year-old has not spo­ken pub­licly af­ter fail­ing to se­cure his de­sired move, Ney­mar said his Brazil­ian team mate was feel­ing “dis­ap­point­ment and sad­ness”.

Al­though Coutinho was keen, hand­ing in a trans­fer re­quest af­ter de­vel­op­ing a back in­jury that pre- vented him play­ing for Liver­pool but not Brazil, his fail­ure to force an exit has left him in an un­ex­pected limbo.

In the­ory he will be avail­able for Liver­pool’s next game at Manch­ester City on Satur­day, but with­out him Juer­gen Klopp’s side have im­pressed and he is un­likely to go straight into the team, par­tic­u­larly so soon af­ter trav­el­ing back from South Amer­ica.

A fur­ther com­pli­ca­tion in­volves his deal­ings with Klopp. The Ger­man never pub­licly crit­i­cised Coutinho - or ques­tioned the le­git­i­macy of his in­jury - but will be aware of the un­named ‘fam­ily friend’ who was widely quoted in me­dia re­ports as say­ing their re­la­tion­ship had frac­tured.

Klopp al­ways in­sisted that the de­ci­sion not to sell Coutinho was taken by the own­ers, Fen­way Sports Group, and there is clear anger at Liver­pool at the way Barcelona con­ducted them­selves over the af­fair.

Liver­pool in­sist that Satur­day’s claim by di­rec­tor Al­bert Soler that the club of­fered to sell Coutinho for €200m (Sh24.4bn) is false. They say that Barcelona were con­sis­tently told the player was not for sale at any price.

What­ever hap­pens with Klopp, Coutinho will face a strug­gle to re­store his rep­u­ta­tion among sup­port­ers, with large num­bers tak­ing to so­cial me­dia to express their un­hap­pi­ness about a player who ear­lier this year signed a new five-year deal with the words: “I signed this new con­tract to stay here for a few more years be­cause it’s a great hon­our for me.”

COUTINHO WILL FACE A STRUG­GLE TO RE­STORE HIS REP­U­TA­TION AMONG SUP­PORT­ERS

/ REUTERS

Liver­pool’s Philippe Coutinho cel­e­brates dur­ing a past match

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