Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has ‘given up’ on Philippe Coutinho after becoming reluctant to field him in central midfield, according to reports.
Coutinho is only a year into his contract at the Camp Nou following his £142million move from Liverpool last January, but there are already rumours he could be heading back to England with Manchester United and Chelsea.
Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo has recently claimed that United have contacted Coutinho’s agent to find out his transfer situation.
It has even been suggested that the Catalan giants would be willing to part with the former Inter Milan man in order to secure a return for Neymar.
And now another Spanish newspaper Sport claims the Barcelona hierarchy have suspicions that Valverde has ‘given up’ on Coutinho.
At times Coutinho operated well in the centre for Liverpool and it is thought that Barca brought him to the Camp Nou as a potential successor to Andres Iniesta.
However, the report continues by suggesting that Valverde is no longer willing to attempt to play him centrally as the Catalan giants already have the likes of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Arthur Melo and Arturo Vidal on their books.
Barcelona board members think the team would be able to ‘defend through possession of the ball’ better if Coutinho was deployed centrally.
But with Frenkie De Jong’s arrival in the summer that looks even more unlikely unless Valverde has a change of heart.
Valverde has tried to downplay transfer talk in recent weeks, though, and the reported interest from the Premier League is most likely a transfer window red herring.
“What I like about Coutinho is that he’s daring and he’s always prepared to take the opposition on,” Valverde said.
“He makes things happen. After that, sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don’t.
“He’s had good chances and the fact that he’s getting into those positions one-on-one with the goalkeeper is really good.
“He’s not converted those chances this time – but he will.”