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Football: Coutinho completes ‘dream’ Barcelona move

Philippe Coutinho officially completed his "dream" €160 million ($192 million) move from Liverpool to Barcelona on Monday, making him the third most expensive player in history.

Football: Coutinho completes 'dream' Barcelona move
Photo: AFP

Coutinho, 25, signed a five-year contract in a ceremony sitting alongside Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu before posing on the Camp Nou pitch in a Barcelona shirt.

“I am very happy to be here. This is a dream come true and I hope to meet everyone's expectations on the pitch,” Coutinho said.   

Minutes before the Brazilian midfielder put pen to paper after a whirlwind few days, the club said a thigh injury would delay his debut until the end of January.

Barça's swoop for Coutinho is outranked only by Paris Saint-Germain's stunning world record €222 million signing of Neymar from Barcelona last year, and the Paris club's capture of French striker Kylian Mbappe in a deal eventually worth €180 million.

His arrival will help Barcelona to move on from the humiliation of losing Neymar to Qatar-backed PSG, and his presence alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez will help take the pressure off another of the club's stars, 33-year-old Andres Iniesta.

Bartomeu said the club had secured “one of the stars of world football” and admitted that Liverpool had put up a fight to keep the player.   

“It was not easy and other clubs expressed an interest in him, but he was determined to come here,” the president said.   

Barcelona had made a bid for Coutinho in the summer, but Liverpool stood firm.

In the end, the lure of a huge profit on a player they paid just £8.5 million when he joined from Inter Milan in 2013 proved too strong for the English club.

A good fit

Coach Ernesto Valverde predicted Coutinho will comfortably fit into his star-studded team.

He could now make his debut at home to Alaves on January 28th.     

Coutinho played with Suarez for 18 months at Liverpool before the Uruguayan made the same move to Spain in 2014.   

“Everybody knows about his quality. He has been playing at the highest level for years now and that is important,” Suarez said.   

“Now we need to make sure he feels at home because we know that changing club is always difficult, but I think he is the type of player who will fit well into the team.”

Valverde admitted that it would be a challenge shoehorning his new recruit into a squad already running away with the Spanish league title.   

“Coutinho is a player who I think can bring a lot to us,” said Valverde. “He's an important signing.”

“I have seen him play in various positions — on the right, the left, in the middle, on the wings.”   

The timing of Barça's move for Coutinho has been questioned because he will not be able to play in the Champions League this season having already played in the competition for Liverpool.

But he is likely to be used to give Iniesta a rest, keeping the veteran midfielder fresh for the Champions League as Barcelona seek to wrest the trophy back from bitter rivals Real Madrid.

Rio-born Coutinho scored 54 goals for Liverpool in all competitions, although he won no silverware during his five-year stay at Anfield and he never made a secret of his desire to move to a club where Brazilians such as Ronaldinho and Romario have shone in the past.   

His departure now is a blow to Liverpool as he had just returned to top form after an injury-hit start to the season, scoring seven goals in the last eight games of 2017 to put his side firmly in the Champions League places.   

“It is no secret that Philippe has wanted this move to happen since July, when Barcelona first made their interest known,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said at the weekend.

“Philippe was insistent with me, the owners and even his teammates this was a move he was desperate to make happen.”   

Liverpool have been tipped to quickly reinvest their windfall from the Coutinho sale.

Despite already paying Southampton £75 million for defender Virgil van Dijk, Klopp will be chasing an attacker with Leicester City's Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez and Monaco midfielder Thomas Lemar already linked with a switch to Anfield.

By Daniel Bosque and Jean Decotte / AFP

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Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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