Barcelona, English Premier League, Leagues, Liverpool, Philippe Coutinho, Spanish Copa del Rey, Spanish Primera División, Story


Ernesto Valverde credits substitute Philippe Coutinho for propelling Barcelona to their Copa del Rey semi-final win over Valencia.
With no goals or assists in his first four games, ESPN FC’s Sid Lowe explains why Barcelona shouldn’t worry about Philippe Coutinho just yet.

Philippe Coutinho has said he had to work even harder for Liverpool earlier this season after a summer transfer to Barcelona fell through.

Barca failed with three bids for Coutinho in August, and he remained a Liverpool player when the summer window closed.

Coutinho said that was difficult to take at the time and left him feeling he had to increase his efforts for the Premier League side.

“In the summer, when the offer arrived from Barca, I was very clear with everyone because my ambition was to come here,” he told Mundo Deportivo.

“In the end, it didn’t go through and I had to work even harder when I got on the pitch so that the [Liverpool] fans didn’t think I was doing things badly.

“It was tough, but I also have to say that I had some good moments at Liverpool and the fans treated me really well, even though I wasn’t able to win any trophies there.”

Coutinho scored 12 goals in 20 games for Liverpool after returning from a back injury this season before moving to Barcelona for €160 million in January.

He scored his first Barca goal in last week’s Copa del Rey semifinal win against Valencia and said settling in had been helped by ex-Anfield teammate Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.

“The welcome from Messi and Suarez has been great,” he added. “They’re two big idols for me and to play for the same team as them is great — but not just with them, with Andres [Iniesta] and the rest, too.

“Playing alongside Messi is really special. Not everyone gets the chance to do that. That makes me really happy.”

Philippe Coutinho celebrates after scoring his first Barcelona goal at Valencia.

Messi turns 31 later this year but remains the key player at Barcelona, who are top of La Liga, into the Copa del Rey final and meet Chelsea in the Champions League next week.

Midfielder Ivan Rakitic said that although Messi might not be the most extrovert of characters, he was the greatest player of all time.

“Messi’s the reference,” Rakitic told El Hormiguero. “Our play depends a lot on him, there’s no need to talk to understand him, a gesture is enough.

“He’s the best in history, capable of turning a game around in a second.

“He’s shy because he knows that everyone is looking at him. But he was one of the first to help me when I got to the club, asking me if I needed anything. He’s different to other people.”

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.



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