When Barcelona announced the signing of Philippe Coutinho in 2018, it seemed at the time that they had overpaid.
But hey, they were getting a world class attacking midfielder who would, at the very least, improve their starting XI. Right?
Nearly three years on and the club are dreaming of recouping even half of their outlay. He’s been emblematic of one of the most abysmal periods of their modern history, and just scored twice against them to help send them out of the Champions League, ending their last hope of silverware in the process.
He continues to steadily drain the club’s financial reserves through his crippling, ludicrous salary, and the fact that he has now reportedly cost them something to the tune of £140m – his initial transfer fee, and almost all of the conditional bonuses Liverpool negotiated in his sale.
Yeah, it’s been a disaster, but we don’t need to say that when we can prove it by running the numbers. Here is his precise cost broken down into footballing terms – with a few comparable flops, just to stick the boot in.
Comparable Flop: Dmytro Chygrynskiy (£2.1m Per League Appearance)
When you’re signing a player for the third-highest transfer fee in history, you’re ideally wanting at least a few good seasons out of them…not 76 league appearances before a terminal loan away.
Barring a surprise revival under whoever is charged with the managerial hotseat next season, Coutinho will leave Barcelona having cost them more than £2m per La Liga appearance.
The only player to ever get close to that was Ukrainian centre-back Dmytro Chygrynskiy, who may sound made up, but did actually cost Barça £25m in 2009.
Comparable Flop: Andre Gomes (£10.1m Per Goal)
With 21 goals in 76 appearances, Coutinho averages a goal every three-and-a-half games for Barca. Doesn’t seem like too bad going.
And then you see what each of those has cost individually, and that puts it into perspective a little.
Comparable Flop(ish): Ousmane Dembélé (£8.3m Per Champions League Appearance)
Returning to the height of European football was a big part of why Barcelona sanctioned the purchase of Coutinho.
The furthest they’ve got since they signed him was the semi-finals…where they lost to the club they signed him from.
Comparable Flop: Alex Song (£8.6m Per Assist)
Coutinho’s assist numbers for Barca haven’t been what you’d qualify as bad either. On paper, 11 across 76 appearances is hardly catastrophic reading.
Still, creatively, he has not hit the heights expected of him so far. Alex Song had a better assist-per-£1m ratio, and he spent half his time playing at centre-back.
Comparable Flop: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (£15m Per Trophy)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic really struggled at Barcelona, and it’s pretty obvious why. He was never going to be the focal point of an attack featuring Lionel Messi, and if Zlatan isn’t the centre of attention, then Zlatan doesn’t want it.
22 goals in his only full season in Catalonia probably justified the investment, however, especially since his exploits helped them to a La Liga title.
Coutinho won one of those too, you know; though it often gets forgotten considering how much of a shambles the past few years have been from a Barça perspective.
Comparable Flop: N/A
Surprisingly, there is no precedent for a club splurging over £100m on a player, then loaning them out within 18 months, then watching with teary eyes as they emerge from the bench and score twice to send you packing from the Champions League.
Coutinho scored twice and assisted one in his 15-minute cameo against his parent club – averaging out at a goal-involvement every five.
That’s, err, a lot better than his strike rate for Barcelona, anyway.