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Barcelona Manager Ernesto Valverde on Philippe Coutinho: 'He's with Us'

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2019

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 30: Philippe Coutinho of FC Barcelona  during the La Liga Santander  match between FC Barcelona v Espanyol at the Camp Nou on March 30, 2019 in Barcelona Spain (Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde is "counting on" Philippe Coutinho, but he does not "know what's going to happen" amid numerous rumours surrounding the Brazilian.

Coutinho has been the subject of much speculation this summer after failing to consistently perform in his first full season at the Camp Nou.

According to Gary Jacob and Paul Hirst in The Times, Tottenham Hotspur made an offer to sign him on loan.

But with the Premier League transfer window closing on Thursday, it seems unlikely a return to England will materialise for the former Liverpool playmaker.

Speaking after Barca's 2-1 friendly win over Napoli on Wednesday, Valverde explained that Coutinho played no part at Hard Rock Stadium because he has only just returned to training, having been with Brazil at the 2019 Copa America, per Ramiro Aldunate of Marca:

"Of course I am counting on him. We don't know what's going to happen, but he's with us. He didn't play today because, like Arthur [Melo] and [Arturo] Vidal, they've only had two training sessions. The plan is the same: to bring them in little by little [after the Copa America]. We will see if on Saturday he can play some minutes. The idea is the same with him as everyone else. We count on him, of course."

It seems clear Coutinho is still in Valverde's plans despite his somewhat underwhelming Barca career.

The 27-year-old joined Barcelona from Liverpool in January 2018 in a deal worth up to £142 million.

Unsurprisingly, expectations were high:

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

Will Coutinho be a successful signing for Barcelona? Can the Brazilian win the Balon D'Or at his new club? Will he become as big as Lionel Messi? Let us know your thoughts using #bbcfootball https://t.co/FXaK1uUL8U

He was tipped to become a key part of the first team and touted as the heir to Andres Iniesta in Barca's midfield. It has not quite worked out that way.

Coutinho has not been a bit-part player at Barca. He made 34 appearances in La Liga last season, 12 of which were from the bench.

But he has not made himself indispensable to the side, and he has disappointed on many big occasions, including his return to Anfield in last season's UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg:

Sport Witness @Sport_Witness

Mundo's player ratings. The good (Liverpool) - Wijnnaldum 'hero', Van Dijk 'director', Robertson 'omnipresent', Milner 'incombustible'. The bad (Barca) - Alba 'catastrophic', Coutinho 'invisible', Busquets 'overcome', Messi 'powerless'. https://t.co/WyzHYRYiCg

While the Premier League transfer window closes on Thursday, clubs in Europe's other top leagues have until September 2 to make more signings.

Per ESPN FC's Moises Llorens and Sam Marsden, the Blaugrana "are still open to selling Coutinho this month," but there are few clubs outside of England who have the financial clout to meet Barca's demands.

The most likely scenario is that Coutinho remains at the Camp Nou for the new season, and Valverde is clearly planning to make use of him.