Philippe Coutinho Loan to Aston Villa Agreed to by Barcelona

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 7, 2022

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 04: Philippe Coutinho of FC Barcelona looks on prior to the La Liga Santander match between FC Barcelona and Real Betis at Camp Nou on December 04, 2021 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Aston Villa announced Friday it has agreed to acquire midfielder Philippe Coutinho on loan from Barcelona for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.

"The agreement, which is subject to the player completing a medical and receiving a work permit, also includes an option to buy, and Philippe will travel to Birmingham in the next 48 hours," the club wrote in a statement.

Coutinho joined Barca in January 2018 from Liverpool in a $192 million transfer and previously spent the 2019-20 term on loan at Bayern Munich.

The 29-year-old Brazilian international fell out of favor at Camp Nou with 11 of his 16 appearances this season coming as a substitute. He'd drawn just one start since new manager Xavi, a club legend, took over in early November after the firing of Ronald Koeman.

ESPN's Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens reported five Premier League clubs reached out to Barcelona about the former Liverpool star, and it was the presence of his previous Reds teammate Steven Gerrard as the Villa head coach that shifted the race in Villa's favor.

His desire to earn a spot on Brazil's 2022 FIFA Men's World Cup roster also played a role in his desire to leave Barca for more consistent playing time, per Marsden and Llorens.

Coutinho, who started his career in European football at Inter Milan in 2008, enjoyed a strong campaign on loan at Bayern two years ago. He recorded 11 goals and nine assists across 34 appearances between the Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League.

He played just 14 matches upon his return to Barcelona last term before suffering a season-ending knee injury, and he wasn't able to regain his place in the starting XI to open the current campaign.

Coutinho tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 30, but Villa's statement suggested his arrival to the club won't be delayed significantly.

Once back up to full speed, he should take on a key role in Villa's attack as they look to remain comfortably clear of the relegation fight.

They own a 7-1-11 record (22 points), which puts them 11 points clear of the bottom three heading into the season's second half and 12 points back of West Ham United for a spot in the Europa League next season, though a run up the table would require jumping over several clubs.

Villa's next two matches are both against Manchester United, first in the FA Cup on Monday and then in Premier League play on Jan. 15. There was no indication in Villa's announcement of whether Coutinho will be cleared to play in either of those fixtures or if his debut will have to wait a little longer.