Coutinho completes 160-mln-euro Barça move
Philippe Coutinho officially joined Barcelona on Jan. 8, completing a move from Liverpool thought to be worth 160 million euros ($192 million), making it the third richest transfer in history.
Coutinho, 25, signed a five-year contract in a ceremony alongside Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
But minutes before he put pen to paper, the club said a thigh injury would delay his debut until the end of January.
Barça coach Ernesto Valverde has predicted the Brazilian will comfortably fit into a team already containing global superstar Lionel Messi.
In a video message on Jan. 7 showing Coutinho posing for photographers at the Camp Nou wearing a Barcelona jacket, he said: “I want to play, win trophies and make the supporters happy. Those are my objectives.
“Barça fans, I’m here now. It’s a dream come true!”
Coutinho said he was excited about playing alongside Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta.
He described them as well as club stalwarts Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets as “idols.”Coutinho has already lined up alongside Suarez for 18 months at Liverpool before the Uruguayan made the same move to Spain in 2014.
“Everybody knows about his quality. He has been playing at the highest level for years now and that is important,” Suarez said. “Now we need to make sure he feels at home because we know that changing club is always difficult, but I think he is the type of player who will fit well into the team.”
Valverde admitted that it would be a challenge shoehorning his new recruit into a squad already running away with the Spanish league title.
“Coutinho is a player who I think can bring a lot to us,” said Valverde. “He’s an important signing. I have seen him play in various positions -- on the right, the left, in the middle, on the wings. We will evaluate all of this... but, of course, I don’t think he will play as a goalkeeper!”
The timing of Barça’s move for Coutinho has been questioned because he will not be able to play in the Champions League this season having already played in the competition for Liverpool.
But he is likely to be used to give 33-year-old Iniesta a rest, keeping the veteran midfielder fresh for the Champions League.
The swoop for Coutinho -- which contains a 400 million-euro release clause -- is the third biggest transfer in football history, outranked only by Paris Saint-Germain’s world record 222 million-euro signing of Neymar from Barcelona last year, and their capture of French striker Kylian Mbappe for a deal eventually worth 180 million euros.
Rio-born Coutinho arrived at Liverpool from Inter Milan for a mere 8.5 million (9.6 million euros, $11.5 million) in January 2013 and scored 54 goals for the club in all competitions.