Coutinho to Arsenal? Why Barcelona outcast is unlikely to join Arteta's revolution

Philippe Coutinho Bayern Arsenal
Getty/Goal
The Gunners have been linked with a potential move for the Brazil international, who is deemed surplus to requirements by the Catalan giants

Philippe Coutinho was linked with a move to Arsenal throughout the summer before ultimately making a loan move from Barcelona to Bayern Munich.

And now, even before a date has been set for the Premier League to resume from its current coronavirus-enforced hiatus, the Brazilian playmaker is once again being named as a potential transfer target for the Gunners ahead of the 2020-21 season.

It’s looking highly unlikely that the 27-year-old will see his loan move to Bavaria turned permanent, with Bayern's chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge having already admitted that the Bundesliga champions have not activated their purchase option for Coutinho and that the clause has now expired.

"The option expired and we haven't activated it," Rummenigge told German magazine   Der Spiegel .

"We're going to plan our squad for next season and we'll see if he still has a role to play with us or not."

At the time of finalising the season-long loan deal for Coutinho last summer, Bayern agreed an option to buy the Brazil international from Barcelona for £107 million ($132m).

Barcelona are willing to renegotiate and would now accept a lower fee, and although Rummenigge did not close the door completely on a permanent move for Coutinho, their focus this summer will be on completing a deal for Manchester City winger Leroy Sane.

And that would leave the former Liverpool star with no option but to return to Barcelona,  who are desperate to get him out the door just two years after signing him for £140m ($172m).

So another move this summer is on the cards for the playmaker, with Arsenal now being mooted as one of the favourites to sign him.

It’s a link which is an easy one to make when you consider who Coutinho’s agent is.

Kia Joorabchian - a self-confessed Arsenal fan - is now a very influential figure at the club. He has a close working relationship with head of football Raul Sanllehi and sporting director Edu and is often seen in the Emirates Stadium directors' box on a match day.

Kia Joorabchian Tevez

Arsenal signed David Luiz, a player represented by Joorabchian, during last summer’s transfer window and the Iranian-born businessman also oversaw the deal that brought Cedric Soares to north London in January.

So it’s no surprise to now see Coutinho’s name being mentioned alongside Arsenal’s once again, although while speaking to Sky Sports in April, Joorabchian was keen to point out he would not try to push his client towards the club.

“The fact I'm an Arsenal supporter is not a secret," he said.

"I don't have any preference where the players go. I don't try to push someone to one club or another. Everything is a possibility. After the Champions League game he played in England we had a long chat about it.

"The Premier League is something that he has always enjoyed playing in, and loved playing in, and would probably love to come back and play in.”

But while Coutinho may be keen to return to England, the finances involved in any potential deal are going to make it very difficult for clubs who might be interested.

Joorabchian may have close links with Arsenal, but financially, the Gunners will have very little money to play with during this summer’s window.

Arsenal want to do some business and will work hard to bring players in to refresh Mikel Arteta’s squad, but a move for Coutinho looks impossible because the level of money required simply isn’t there.

The Gunners' priority right now is trying to safeguard the club so it remains in as strong a position as possible throughout the coronavirus crisis.

Analysis by the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust shows that the club is currently set for a loss of £19m ($23m) for the year ending May 2020. Prior to the pandemic, Arsenal had been on course for a small profit of £4m.

Brazil Philippe Coutinho

That change has been put down to Arsenal having to refund fans for the four remaining Premier League home games of the season, as well as a drop in commercial and retail revenue.

The AST also predicts that the north London club will lose approximately £144 million ($177m) for the year 2020-21, if all games next season are staged behind closed doors.

Matchday income currently accounts for around 24 per cent of Arsenal’s revenues and this is the time of year when season ticket money usually starts to arrive for the coming campaign.

But executive box and club-level renewals have been suspended, as have general season ticket renewals which would usually open from May. The AST says those pre-payments normally total close to £70m ($86m) and produce working capital for the off-season months of May, June and July.

And this all impacts directly on the club’s ability in the transfer market this summer. Prior to the pandemic, Arsenal were hoping to bring in at least one centre-back alongside the incoming William Saliba, and were also targeting a strong box-to-box midfielder, as well as a right-back.

Signing a playmaker was not viewed as a top priority, although a player of Coutinho’s quality would obviously be an appealing option for Arteta, especially with Mesut Ozil expected to finally leave north London at the end of his contract in 2021.

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Barcelona are looking for around £100m ($123m) for the Brazilian, a figure that is well beyond Arsenal’s reach.

And even if the two clubs agreed on some sort of swap deal which involved Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - who has just a year left on his deal - heading in the opposite direction, Coutinho’s £240,000-a-week wages would be all but impossible for the Gunners to take on at a time when they are looking to drastically reduce the wage bill and have asked the current squad to accept a 12.5% wage cut over the next 12 months.

So any expectations fans may have ahead of this summer’s transfer window need to be realistic. The club will look to do some business where possible, but don't expect big-money deals for players such as Coutinho given the current financial climate.

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