There is no better showcase for a player than an El Clasico. A Barcelona – Real Madrid match can give air (like Malcom and Vinicius), confirm a continuous growth (like Semedo) or clear a few doubts that could be about a signing (Arthur).
But an El Clasico can also be a double-edged sword, especially for those players who do not meet expectations.
This is now the case of Philippe Coutinho
In the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals, the Brazilian had the last great opportunity as a starter to prove his worth, and once again he disappointed. The context was the ideal to take a step forward, but the suspense around him that was involved for months was confirmed. Without Messi or Dembele in the field, Coutinho failed to take the responsibilities and went back into hiding. Shy in each of his attempts, he failed to tickle Real right-back Dani Carvajal and was disconnected all the time. It was a worrying situation for Valverde, who was running out of ideas to find the best version of the player, unknown even in the Catalan capital.
On a path of shrinkage
The process of Coutinho’s shrinkage is very much evident. Little remains of the promising start he delivered for few weeks after landing from Liverpool. In short, Coutinho has run out of resources – he almost does not even test his characteristic dribble inwards with a coiled shot. He also does not offer solutions to the team and his body language on the pitch to invite optimism. The two goals in the previous round against Sevilla momentarily covered his shortcomings. But it is far from reality, or what Barca actually requires.
Coutinho is not Andres Iniesta
At the beginning of the season Coutinho’s timid role was overshadowed by the intensity of Dembele, but when the Frenchman took off, there was no way to make up. With his signing, the most expensive in the history of the Catalan club (about 135 million euros), the Brazilian was asked to become the heir of Andres Iniesta. However, right now it’s hard to see him to fill in the mighty shoes. Not only for his limited contribution to the development of the game, but also for his little defensive commitment that happens every time he gives away the ball.
Dembele, more reliable for Barca
Insipid and shabby in the field, against Real Madrid, Coutinho ended up being replaced by Lionel Messi in the 63rd minute. The Blaugrana coach valued Malcolm’s effort and kept him on the field for long when his early change was pre-determined. Coutinho has had three weeks to show that he is ready for competing Dembele’s position, but the return of the Frenchman after his injury is eagerly awaited now as the season goes up in temperature with the return of the Champions League. Dembele has conquered the Barca fans, and Coutinho has run out of time. Now he will have to reverse the situation from the bench. If he fails to do so, the departure next summer will be closer, although Barca will have to see to what extent the investment is recoverable.
Also Read: 5 talking points of the El Clasico