Coutinho to Chelsea is a lose-lose situation
Legacies take a lifetime to forge and only an instant to destroy in football.
One bad decision or moment of madness can irreparably ruin a player’s standing in the game. Philippe Coutinho risks arriving at that potential juncture as he bids to revive an ailing career.
Becoming the-then third-most expensive player in history has proved a curse for the playmaker.
Since Barcelona signed him on an initial deal of £105 million (S$185m), which could rise to £142m in add-ons, at the start of 2018, his once-emphatic stock has rapidly declined.
Coutinho joined the Spanish giants in a desperation to “win big titles”.
Had he hung around a little while longer at Anfield, those trophies that he craved most would have begun steadily accumulating.
Juergen Klopp’s side provided a blunt reminder that the grass is not always greener, as they swept to Champions League glory at the expense of the Brazil international and his Barca teammates; the Catalan giants were shook to their very core during last season’s semi-final.
That chaotic night on Merseyside became the final nail in Coutinho’s coffin at the Nou Camp.
His current loan spell with Bayern Munich has done little to shake the belief that Europe’s formerly most prodigious attacking talent is now in the midst of an alarming personal slide.
Redemption may come in the form of a return to the English Premier League. That, however, carries its own pitfalls if he chooses a precarious step by moving to one of Liverpool’s rivals.
Chelsea and Everton are currently the forerunners for Coutinho’s signature, but history suggests a switch to west London would prove as incendiary, if not more, than crossing the Stanley Park divide.
Steven Gerrard famously agonised over defecting to Stamford Bridge. Elevating his career there proved enticing enough to consider besmirching his homegrown-hero status. After he submitted a transfer request at Anfield, fans burned shirts bearing Gerrard’s name outside.
When the Blues finally prised away a Liverpool talisman, it was under false pretences.
Jamie Carragher revealed last week how Roman Abramovich had been “kidded” into paying £50m for Fernando Torres in 2011 despite being a shadow of his former self.
Kopites still berated the Spaniard whenever he faced off against them in Chelsea colours. In their own words, they hated him intensely because they had once loved him so much.
To this day, Torres’ reputation at Liverpool has never recovered from that acrimonious departure.
Luis Suarez, meanwhile, continues to enjoy a more favourable rapport – even after dragging the club’s reputation through the mud during a three-year spell in which he bit two opponents and was found guilty of racially abusing another.
His crimes were indefensible, yet not unforgivable.
Had he moved to Arsenal in 2013, when the Londoners submitted an audacious bid of £40m plus £1, the vitriol solely reserved for Torres would have been extended to the Uruguayan. Gerrard’s sage advice to stick things out at Anfield for another year ultimately saved him.
Liverpool’s captain told Suarez that he would have the pick of Europe’s elite clubs in 12 months and insisted: “You won’t be better off at Arsenal.”
Coutinho may not have that luxury at this stage of his career, but those same principles apply to the Chelsea equation.
His compatriot Willian’s impending exit at the Bridge will free up a space for the 27-year-old in the club’s front line. But it also risks decimating his own place in the Kop’s annals of affection.
Chelsea would not be buying the same player that Coutinho was for Liverpool.
What they can offer in money and ambition is a drop in the ocean compared to what he will lose at Anfield.