It’s been a few days since Bayern Munich effortlessly dispatched Barcelona at the Camp Nou, and the Catalans still seem to be in disarray. Without a new game to distract them (Barca don’t play Granada until Monday) the midweek Champions League failure continues to haunt Ronald Koeman and his team. Talks of managerial changes have emerged since the defeat, with Joan Laporta said to be a critic of the Dutchman’s coaching style.
Luckily for Koeman, he can call on the advice of a man who watched Barcelona more closely than anyone else during the 3-0 game — Manuel Neuer. The Bayern captain was basically an honored spectator in that fixture, as Barca barely made it close to his goal. However, Neuer felt that a certain player gave Barca more of an edge when they came on. Coincidentally, this same player was his teammate at Bayern last year.
“If Barca want to improve, they should put Coutinho on more,” said Neuer (via Maria Garrido). “I felt more fear when he came on and tried to score a goal against me. I know him very well and I know his talent, because we were teammates when he was at Bayern and in training we played against each other.”
The Bayern game was actually Coutinho’s first time back after a very long injury layoff, and Neuer is right — the Brazilian was FAR more threatening than Dutch striker Luuk de Jong, whom he replaced. Coutinho hasn’t had an easy time since he left Liverpool, being a misfit at both Bayern and Barcelona despite being paid very high wages. However, at 29-years-old, he still has a chance to revive his career with the Catalans, especially now that Leo Messi and Antoine Griezmann, the chief claimants to his preferred attacking midfield spot, have left the club.
Will Koeman follow Neuer’s advice and give Coutinho a bigger role this season? He probably has no choice, given that Barca’s attacking options are slim right now. After that, it’ll be up to the Brazilian to make the most of his chances. He has the talent, but can he deliver with performances?