Philippe Coutinho won't be the fall guy who makes room for Antoine Griezmann's anticipated move to Barcelona this summer.
The Brazil international's agent, Andrea Bertolucci, denied any suggestion his client will be replaced by the Atletico Madrid forward when speaking to AS (h/t Sky Sports News): "It's untrue that Griezmann is going to replace Philippe at Barcelona. I don't know why they are saying that. I don't know about that, and that's why I don't want to talk anymore, but it's false."
Sky Sports News' Zinny Boswell has reported Barca will meet Griezmann's release clause of £108 million to bring the France international over from the Spanish capital. He posted a goodbye message on Atleti's Twitter account (h/t JJ Bull of the Daily Telegraph) on Tuesday, confirming his decision to leave.
Coutinho seems like an obvious candidate to be affected if Griezmann arrives. The former Liverpool playmaker has struggled to assert himself at the Camp Nou since joining the club in January 2018, with rumours rife he will be ditched this summer.
Barca paid £142 million for the stylish midfielder but have received little of the vision, flair and spectacular goals that made Coutinho a star at Anfield.
In fairness to Coutinho, he hasn't always been played centrally; instead he has often been deployed on the left of a front three. It's the natural berth for Griezmann, who has thrived during five seasons with Atletico.
Griezmann's pace, timing and the range of his movement would make him an asset at any club. If he does head to Barcelona, the 28-year-old would be a better replacement for Ousmane Dembele.
Like Coutinho, Dembele has disappointed since arriving in La Liga as a big-money transfer. The Frenchman joined from Borussia Dortmund for £135.5 million in 2017, but injuries and off-field problems have blighted his time with the Blaugrana.
Signing Griezmann could let Coutinho drop deeper and play more often in the middle, where he could add the artistry Barca have missed from midfield in recent years. The Barcelona engine room has become workmanlike since Xavi and Andres Iniesta moved on and were replaced by an industrious group led by Arturo Vidal.
Using Coutinho better should help restore the polished, possession-based game Barca are known for. It makes more sense to keep Coutinho and add Griezmann as the ideal target for him to aim for next season.