Liverpool’s 3-2 win over Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening was a typical one as far as the Reds are concerned.
With Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho in fine form, a fine attacking display was on show while defensive insecurities were exposed once again.
With a brilliant assist for Salah and an even better free kick from range, Coutinho showed exactly why Liverpool were so adamant that they would hold onto him in the summer.
Although he faded towards the end of the game as he looks to build on his match fitness, it really is great to have the Brazilian back and pulling the strings, especially in Sadio Mané’s absence.
After a summer tainted by attempts from Barcelona to sign Coutinho, the no.10 will remain at the club for at least another season. That being said, it stands to reason that when the 2018 summer transfer window swings by, Barcelona or another club could come in for the Brazil international.
Some Liverpool fans have voiced their belief that the former Inter Milan midfielder could stay at the club past next summer with pictures of Coutinho in training showing that he is as happy as ever and as though the events of the summer never took place.
Yet, the cynic in me cannot help but ignore that Coutinho submitted a transfer request not so long ago. Although the written transfer request is not as powerful as it once was and it could be argued that he was poorly advised by his agent, there is no denying that Coutinho made it clear that he wanted to leave the club after having his head turned by Barcelona.
So, what happens next summer if Liverpool receive another bid from Barcelona and one which is not as insulting as the three that were received this year? If an offer from Barca or the like is received early in the window with time to replace Coutinho, I believe he will be sold but find a replacement or a way to reinvest the money received wisely will another matter entirely.
Replacing Coutinho will be an interesting proposition given that Naby Keita is due to arrive next summer. The Guinean is a midfielder capable of occupying a creative role in the engine room but a like for like replacement or as close to one would be far better for the longevity of Jürgen Klopp’s side.
Despite the fact that Coutinho’s best season in his career came playing as a left wing after he ended last season as the club’s top goalscorer, there is no denying that his boundless talent is better served being displayed in a central position.
A player that would be absolutely perfect to replace Coutinho and is actually better, is Real Madrid’s Isco. Born several weeks apart, the two midfielders share traits that are valuable to the way Liverpool play but of the pair, Isco is the better player and the more experienced.
Despite being just 25 years old, the Spaniard has won three Champions Leagues with his influence on Real Madrid’s most recent success greater than many realise. His creativity and workrate in the centre of the park allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to thrive last season.
Having said all of this, Liverpool will have to spend a ridiculous amount of money to sign Isco should there be any interest in the Spanish playmaker next summer. Having recently agreed a new deal with Los Blancos, Isco agreed to the insertion of a €700 million release clause into his contract!
Another player that I think would be a great replacement for Coutinho should he leave is another Real Madrid player. 21 year old Marco Asensio would be a superb replacement if Barcelona came knocking once more.
Most shots in Liga this season – Messi 41 [9 goals], Asensio 20 , Zaza 19 , Baptistao 19 , Ronaldo 18 [zero], Rodrigo 18 .
— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) September 25, 2017
Coutinho has endeared himself to Liverpool fans with top-class performances in the biggest of games over the years but Asensio, despite his youth, is already one for the big occasion.
As with Isco, however, Real Madrid will only let him leave if Neymar’s €220m transfer fee is demolished. According to reports, a €500 million release clause will be inserted into the young star’s contract.
That almost certainly rules out Liverpool whose most expensive transfer was the purchase in the summer of Mohamed Salah from AS Roma for £37.9m.
A likely scenario given the wild ending to the summer transfer window is that the Reds go back in for AS Monaco’s hugely talented midfielder Thomas Lemar. After an impressive 2016/17 season and the likelihood that he’ll only improve, Liverpool will likely have to pay around £100m for a player who doesn’t yet have a release clause in his contract.
Has Thomas Lemar's strike for France been the goal of this International break so far? ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/ERdc6BgXiR
— Top Eleven (@topeleven) September 4, 2017
For the time being, Philippe Coutinho remains a Liverpool player and seems committed to giving his absolute best until such a time he’s no longer obliged to. Personally, I am quite happy with the way the little Brazilian has come back into the side, got stuck in and even gave an honest account of why he wanted to leave.
Klopp has spoken Coutinho being welcomed back by fans, saying: “It’s not about Coutinho’s character but it says a lot about the relationship with our supporters and Phil Coutinho.”
With Coutinho being welcomed back into the ranks at Liverpool despite the summer’s saga, the Brazilian needs to continue giving his absolute best and help the club win a trophy this season. If he can do that then I think most supporters will willingly sell him for a decent replacement.