Philippe Coutinho’s transfer a big loss for Liverpool

The transfer that Liverpool fans hoped would never happen has finally been agreed. Philippe Coutinho is set to become a Barcelona player in one of the most expensive deals ever. But just how much will Liverpool miss him, and where do they need to invest the £142m fee? With the help of former Reds defender Mark Lawrenson and chief football writer Phil McNulty, BBC Sport attempts to answer these questions and more besides, while Spanish football writer Andy West considers just where Coutinho will fit into the current Barcelona squad. There is no doubt that Coutinho has been a massive player for Liverpool since arriving in January 2013.

He has scored 54 goals in over 200 appearances, hitting double figures in each of the last three seasons. The Brazilian was the club’s joint top scorer in the Premier League last term with 13 goals and was well on course to surpass that total in the current campaign, leaving Anfield with seven goals. But what Liverpool will miss more than his goals is his ability to create chances for his team-mates and make those around him better. In terms of goals, no player has scored more than Roberto Firmino since he joined the club in the summer of 2015 (30 goals) but without Coutinho alongside him, the Brazilian forward is not as effective.

Firmino has scored six goals in the 11 games they have started together this season, but in the seven games he has started without his compatriot, the 26-year-old has managed just three. That’s a goals per game ratio of 0.54 when they both start compared to 0.42 when just Firmino starts. Indeed, not even former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, who played alongside Coutinho in the early part of the Brazilian’s career at Anfield, could have envisaged such a rise. Carragher tweeted: “Disappointed Coutinho has gone, never thought he’d turn into the player he’s become when I first played with him, but he’s been a great Liverpool player these last few years.”

Mohamed Salah’s sensational form this season has no doubt provided a welcome distraction to the Coutinho saga for Liverpool fans. The Egypt international has scored 17 goals in 21 Premier League games since joining in the summer, and his stats certainly stack up well against Coutinho. Salah has scored 10 more goals than Coutinho so far in 2017-18, although the latter provided more assists (six to Salah’s five) and created more chances overall (40 to 35) in fewer games (14 to 21). But in terms of first-season influence, Salah is having a bigger impact on Liverpool than Coutinho did, as the below table highlights.

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