WHEN Philippe Coutinho arrived at Barcelona, he also showed off his rather bizarre taste in jeans.
Unlikely wear for a man who has just become super-rich on the back of a £145million transfer — but footballers tend to follow their own fashions off the field.
Others will become richer than the player himself. Certainly Liverpool will and there is every likelihood that an agent or two will join them.
From what we know about Coutinho’s man Kia Joorabchian — and that’s quite a lot given his part in the Carlos Tevez/Javier Mascherano deal with West Ham before the current board took over — he’ll be doing quite well, thank you very much.
In a way, Coutinho’s clothing at his Barca unveiling is symptomatic. Every other 25-year-old outside Hollywood or big-time sport would be in his best bib and tucker for such an event but, the fact the Brazilian wasn’t says a lot about football.
Yes, he’ll love that he can build an even bigger swimming pool for his kids and an eight-bedroom mansion by the Med. But he was rich, if much colder, beside the Mersey already.
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What drives him on and will, with any luck, for a further decade or so is being a great player in a great team.
Diamonds may be forever — but they’ll never feel like winning the Champions League. For a top player, joining Barca is heaven. It’s almost as if Coutinho is no more than a leading actor in his own transfer drama.
On the Anfield stage, he will fast become a memory of 20-yard shots that slotted exactly between the angle of post and bar. Or of those fast turns inside or outside markers, swift little passes and ceaseless effort.
At the Nou Camp, he’ll be a lesser figure at first, taking middle billing among players remembered as once constituting probably the best club team to adorn a football pitch.
In Barcelona they know what has to be done when you sell a superstar. You buy another, even two.
They have already spent around £300m since they sold Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for £198m.
Neymar stands alone, I think, as a player who relishes his worth at least as much as his skill.
For all their cuteness in buying Dutch centre-back Virgil van Dijk before selling Coutinho, the Reds paid Southampton £75m — a world record for a defender — underlining the problems buyers with bulging pockets have in getting value for money.
Liverpool have no reason to grumble, though. They paid only £8.5m for Coutinho. Bargains like him are rarely available in the January sales window.
At this time, I’ve learnt from experience that you can’t rely on what you buy — even for £20m. Sometimes you’re lucky, but often not.
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Frankly, it’s better to spend much more knowing for certain that what you’re buying are the proper goods — in dodgy jeans or not — at the end of the season, rather than in the middle of it.
Liverpool’s American owners will decide whether Jurgen Klopp can spend the Coutinho cache, which will be paid £106m up front with add-ons to come.
Would I tell him to spend the lot? Yes, I would, and so would West Ham’s owners. We believe that players are the starters, main course and dessert of any club that plans to serve its supporters well.
One problem for a team in our position is that to attract the highest-calibre players, we need the promise of big things to come.
It’s a promise we intend to keep — but, for today, we shall have to delay being Barcelona.
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