Philippe Coutinho is “not a Barcelona player” and will be the first casualty of their shambolic Champions League exit to Liverpool, while the board are set to meet to decide coach Ernesto Valverde’s fate, sources have told ESPN FC.
Sources also confirmed that a number of the coaching staff are disappointed with Coutinho’s performances this season. The Brazilian is the club’s record signing at €160 million but his displays against his former side across both legs of the semifinal strengthened the idea that his time at Camp Nou is up.
“Coutinho is not a Barcelona player, that’s been made clear,” a club source told ESPN FC.
The ex-Liverpool playmaker started the season well but his form and confidence have fallen off a cliff since an injury in October. He’s been unable to re-find his best form since and the source bemoaned that “he has added nothing. He will leave in the summer.”
ESPN FC first revealed in March that Barcelona were ready to listen to offers north of €105m for Coutinho and his performances against Liverpool have done nothing to change their plans. He was taken off before the hour mark in both matches, jeered by Barca fans last week and Liverpool supporters on Tuesday.
The Catalan club made a huge effort to sign him but there’s now an acknowledgment that things have not worked out.
While the reaction in the heat of the moment has seen Coutinho singled out inside the club, the board, headed by president Josep Maria Bartomeu, will try to deal with the fallout from the Liverpool loss in the coming days in a more cool-headed manner.
Diario Sport called the 4-0 defeat the “biggest embarrassment” in the club’s history and Bartomeu says there will be time to reflect on how they recover from a second successive European humiliation. They also surrendered a three-goal lead against Roma last year.
“There will be time for a deep reflection and to give explanations,” he said after the game. “There’s a Copa del Rey final to play in three weeks [against Valencia on May 25].
“Last year, in Rome, the same thing happened and it’s not easy to explain. We will try to do so internally. We have to pick ourselves up and apologise to all the Barcelona supporters.”
The board will talk in the coming days and Valverde’s future will be up for debate. The former Athletic Bilbao boss has won back-to-back league titles but those who are most critical of him at the club point to the fact this is the second time in a year that Barcelona have chucked away a huge advantage.
However, as suggested by Bartomeu, the board do not want to rush into making a decision. But there will be talks to see if they can respond to a question which they still don’t have an obvious answer: who could replace Valverde?
There are not many options available who would be capable of leading the required regeneration. Barcelona’s starting XI at Anfield included seven players aged 30 or over.
“We have to see how Valverde deals with this tricky situation,” a club source said on Wednesday. “The fans are really upset and disappointed with what happened and on Sunday there’s a league game against Getafe. It will be interesting to see how the supporters react.”