Barcelona could sell Coutinho to fund Ney­mar Re­turn

Fiji Sun - - Sport - Barcelona for­ward Philippe Coutinho. -Evening Stan­dard

Philippe Coutinho is play­ing for his fu­ture at Barcelona, just a year after mak­ing a 140 mil­lion pound (FJ$381m) move from Liver­pool, and could be sold in the sum­mer to fund a deal for the player he came in to re­place at the Cata­lan club: Ney­mar.

Coutinho signed for Barca in Jan­uary last year and was cup-tied in the Cham­pi­ons League, but he im­pressed in the sec­ond half of the cam­paign at Camp Nou, scor­ing 10 goals in 22 ap­pear­ances as Barca won LaLiga and the Copa del Rey.

How­ever, he has found life more dif­fi­cult in his sec­ond sea­son and has started only one of Barca’s last five fix­tures: the 1-1 draw at home to Tot­ten­ham in De­cem­ber when coach Ernesto Valverde picked a weak­ened XI with first place in the group al­ready se­cured.

The 26-year-old, who was signed as an op­tion for the left­for­ward po­si­tion va­cated by Ney­mar and also with a view to step­ping into Ini­esta’s shoes, has not made ei­ther po­si­tion his own and could now make way as Barca plan a sen­sa­tional sum­mer swoop for his in­ter­na­tional team-mate Ney­mar has been back to Barcelona on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions since his 222m move to Paris Saint-Ger­main in the sum­mer of 2017 and has ad­mit­ted he misses his friends Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

“I was at their train­ing ses­sion,” the Brazil­ian said last year. “I spoke with them all. I had a good time. I miss them a lot.”

Barca’s South Amer­i­can scout An­dre Cury, who has close links with Ney­mar and his fa­ther and helped master­mind the for­ward’s trans­fer from San­tos in 2013, set up a meet­ing with the player’s en­tourage be­fore Christ­mas and the for­mer favourite is open to a re­turn to Camp Nou. Re­la­tions be­tween PSG and Barca have been tense since Ney­mar’s move to the Parc des Princes and the Cata­lan club re­leased a state­ment in late De­cem­ber to deny they were ne­go­ti­at­ing with mid­fielder Adrien Rabiot over a sum­mer switch

Rabiot is out of con­tract in June and is set to join the Span­ish cham­pi­ons , but the state­ment may have been part of the Cata­lans’ strat­egy to lure Ney­mar back in the sum­mer.

Barca have pre­vi­ously ruled out a re­turn for the Brazil­ian after he left un­der a cloud when PSG paid his re­lease clause in 2017, but the club’s direc­tor of in­sti­tu­tional re­la­tions, Guillermo Amor, said in Novem­ber: “Any­thing is pos­si­ble.”

And Messi, in an in­ter­view with Marca pub­lished over the Christ­mas hol­i­days, said: “We would love him to come back, for what he rep­re­sents, both as a player and in the dress­ing room. We’re friends and we lived some very spe­cial things to­gether.”

Coutinho, who has fallen be­hind Ous­mane Dem­bele in the peck­ing or­der at Camp Nou, could be the player sold to help raise funds for the move, iron­i­cally mak­ing way for the man he came in to help re­place.

Barca, how­ever, would face a fight with PSG to sign their for­mer for­ward and Ney­mar would likely have to ex­press his de­sire to re­turn in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate a trans­fer back to Camp Nou.

Be­hind the scenes, though, the wheels are al­ready in mo­tion as the tu­mul­tuous trans­fer saga from 2017 looks set for a sec­ond in­stal­ment this sum­mer.

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