Philippe Coutinho would flourish more in Madrid than in Barcelona

Barcelona appear to have targeted Philippe Coutinho as their replacement for Andres Iniesta, but when considering Barcelona’s style, is the the Brazilian right for the Catalonia club? It looks like Liverpool’s star-man would be better suited for Los Blancos.

It’s unsurprising to see Coutinho linked with Europe’s biggest clubs. Arriving from Inter Milan after a tip-off from former manager, Rafael Benitez, the Brazilian showed his potential early-on.

Coutinho is coming off one of his best seasons yet at Liverpool with 13 goals and seven assists in a campaign which saw the Reds qualify for the Champions League – for just the second time in eight seasons.

While the Barcelona target is acting professional and appears happy to stay at Liverpool without forcing a move, fans will be wondering how long they can hold on to their prized asset – especially after seeing his performances during the pre-season.

Of course, the Brazilian is undoubtedly ready for a move to one of the Spanish giants, but should Coutinho move to Barcelona, will he be able to play with the freedom that he could have at Real Madrid?

Barcelona’s system focuses primarily on their front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez. As a result, midfielders are often limited in what they’re expected to do, and that’s clear from the statistics.

Andres Iniesta failed to record a single goal or assist in 25 appearances from January to the end of 2016/17 La Liga campaign, finishing with the same amount of assists in the league as Sergio Busquets (three).

It’s no coincidence that Iniesta’s productivity has reduced since the arrival of Neymar and Suarez. In the season prior to Neymar’s arrival, the Spanish midfielder recorded 16 assists and three goals in just 24 starts – a total which has never been repeated since. Rakitic hasn’t produced much either from central areas – on average taking over three games for every goal or assist – it’s clear who Barcelona want to have the ball.

For Coutinho, a player who plays best when given the freedom to take risks with dribbles and long shots, a move to Barcelona could only hinder the Brazilian. While Neymar could look past a few wayward shots by his compatriot, Messi and Suarez would be much more unforgiving.

By contrast, Coutinho could flourish by signing for Barcelona’s biggest rivals, Real Madrid.

Los Blancos play a range of systems; when using a 4-3-3, not only could the Brazilian contribute from the midfield, he could also be effective as a left winger, a position where the Liverpool man recorded nine goals and six assists in 25 games last season. When Madrid employ a system with two strikers, Coutinho could be very effective playing behind the front-two or from the left side of the midfield three.

Of course, Cristiano Ronaldo is Madrid’s main man, but away from that, the goals are shared much more evenly between Los Blanco’s attacking options. For example, when playing centrally, James Rodriguez recorded seven goals and four assists from 12 games, and Isco managed nine goals and seven assists from 19 starts in central areas – rates of 1.09 and 1.18 games per goal or assist.

So in terms of potential productivity, where the magician could be restricted in Barcelona, the prospect of a move to Real Madrid offers a system which is much better suited to Coutinho’s style, enabling him the chance to be recognised as one of the best players in the world.

Should Coutinho not force a move from Liverpool, his pre-season form suggests that he will have a season which triggers a whole host of interest from clubs across Europe. The Brazilian is playing the best he’s ever played in a Liverpool shirt, but it’s difficult to see how he will fit ‘perfectly’ in Barcelona’s system.

Merseyside’s star should wait. It won’t be long before Florentino Perez and Real Madrid come calling.