Philippe Coutinho has been in stunning form for Aston Villa since arriving in the Midlands on loan from Barcelona in January.
The 29-year-old has made seven goal contributions in nine games and looks every bit a world-class talent. After Barcelona smashed their transfer record to sign him just four years ago, it’s no surprise that Villa fans have already been treated to some outstanding performances from the diminutive playmaker since he joined, even if he had struggled for form in Spain.
Villa have an option to buy Coutinho permanently at the end of the season when his loan switch expires. Boss Steven Gerrard admits he is desperate for the club to sanction the deal, but explained it isn’t as “straightforward” as some might expect.
He said: “I think you all know what my decision would be. I think you all know what I think of him but this is not as straightforward as people think. There is obviously an option in place, Barcelona still own the player.
“Phil has got to obviously want to be here in terms of the big picture but he is enjoying his football and looks happy and settled. I know the owners are very ambitious, so we will just analyse it as we go along. But if it was totally on me and it was my cash you know what I would do.”
Gerrard has also insisted no decision on Coutinho’s long-term future would be made before the end of the season. He, along with Villa’s recruitment team will then discuss the possibility of a permanent for the Barcelona star.
Coutinho arrived at Villa Park in January off the back of a tricky start to the La Liga season. He started just six of the club’s first 19 league games and failed to show his true quality as a result of a lack of match fitness.
During his first interview with Villa – after he joined on a six-month deal – he made no bones about where he wanted to make an influence under Gerrard. Coutinho said: “I am here to help the team, I played as a number 10, wider also.
“But for sure, I play better in number 10 position. It’s a position where I like the freedom but, as I say, the manager will say. I have personal objectives which I keep personal, I will work hard for them and to give my best on the pitch. I hope to also achieve my personal objectives, yes.”
In recent weeks, Coutinho’s preference has been accepted as Gerrard has reverted to a 4-3-1-2 shape after failing to pick up points against the likes of Newcastle United and Watford using a 4-3-2-1 shape with the Brazilian wider than he might have liked. He has managed to get the best out of Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins, too, as Gerrard has trusted the two number nines to strike up a partnership despite criticism aimed at them throughout large parts of the season.
The Brazil international is more than happy to adapt in a system that will ultimately suite his game whatever system is deployed and whoever is on the pitch with him, but there’s not doubt Coutinho flourishes in that free role behind two centre-forwards.
Will Coutinho sign for Villa permanently this summer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section…
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