Marca give their honest verdict about Philippe Coutinho’s performance v Villarreal

FC Barcelona v Villarreal CF - La Liga

Replacing Neymar with a forward of similar quality was always going to be next to impossible for Barcelona.

Neymar, who moved to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record £200 million fee in the summer of 2017, is unquestionably one of the world’s most talented footballers, capable of producing match-winning performances against any team on the planet.

Barça eventually settled on 20-year-old Ousmane Dembele, a raw but gifted winger from Borussia Dortmund who cost an initial £96.8 million.

However, following a difficult start to life at the Camp Nou due to injury problems and inconsistency, Barça were forced to dip back into the transfer market in January 2018 - and splashed out a further £142 million on Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian playmaker - who, incidentally, is a close friend of Neymar’s - enjoyed a decent first half-season with the Catalan giants, scoring 10 goals in 22 games while forming an impressive on-field bond with Lionel Messi and co. in the process.

However, Coutinho’s second season at the Camp Nou isn’t going quite so well.

With just five goals from 18 games, an increasing number of Barça fans feel the 26-year-old is failing to justify his monstrous transfer fee.

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Madrid-based newspaper Marca, meanwhile, have provided a withering assessment of Coutinho’s performance in the 2-0 win over Villarreal on Sunday evening.

Ranking him as the worst Barça player of the match, Marca’s Enrique Bernaola wrote: “Very much missing in action.

“The former Liverpool man continues to frustrate the Barcelona faithful by failing to look for that incisive forward pass through the lines, as they have come to expect at Camp Nou.

“With no Arthur present, he had to orchestrate a lot of the play in the centre of the pitch but without success.

“Perhaps post-injury he's lost a little bit of that creative spark. Got whistled off when substituted.”

FC Barcelona v Villarreal CF - La Liga

This isn’t the first time this season that Marca have gone in hard on Coutinho.

Just last month, they said Coutinho was “not meeting expectations” and that “his problem is that he doesn’t make a difference on the pitch”.

Many Barça fans agree with Marca’s assessment of Coutinho’s display against Villarreal, judging by their activity on social media. Check out these tweets…

It’s clear that Coutinho is a man now under pressure to start living up to his eye-watering price tag.

While it’s still too early to talk about Barça potentially cashing in on the South American, there’s little doubt that he needs to knuckle down and start producing the goods before questions over his future are raised.

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