'I think Coutinho should never leave' - Former Barcelona director praises 'extraordinary' Brazilian

Philippe Coutinho should never have been allowed to leave Barcelona on loan and would be key for the team if he was played in the right position, according to former club technical director Robert Fernandez.

Former Spain international midfielder Fernandez, who played for Barca between 1986 and 1990, served as sporting director between 2015 and 2018, and was responsible for bringing Coutinho to Camp Nou.

Coutinho arrived at Barca in a €160 million (£140m/$175m) deal back in 2018 after excelling for Liverpool in the Premier League, but has never produced his best form in La Liga.

He joined Bayern Munich on loan last summer, but his performances in Germany have also been patchy and the Bundesliga club are unlikely to exercise the €80m (£70m/$87m) purchase option they have for the 27-year-old.

That has left Barca looking to sell Coutinho on as they aim to fund new attacking signings such as Neymar and Lautaro Martinez, with Chelsea among the clubs linked with the Brazil international.

However Fernandez thinks Barcelona are giving up on Coutinho too soon, and that he can provide the attacking edge the club need to return to a dominant position in European football, as well as praising the Brazilian's attitude.

Speaking exclusively to Goal, Fernandez said: "Watching this Barcelona team, you need fast forward players, able to unbalance the opponents; passing and passing the ball is good but you need the capacity to unbalance because it's impossible to win games by only passing the ball. I think Busquets, Arthur, De Jong, Rakitic are important - and Coutinho, I think he should never leave.

"Barcelona is different to the rest, possession and good treatment of the ball are required and Coutinho has an extraordinary quality. He scores often, so I never understood why he was loaned, it is only about finding his position on the pitch. Maybe something could be done better with him or perhaps the player found himself in a bad situation.

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"I think some players need patience because they are the ones who win games. We can't discuss a player like him, able to unbalance, who works harder, who scores often and he never complains. Barcelona can't be allowing these players to leave because these are the ones who make Camp Nou fans jump out of their seats.

"I can't speak about financial reasons but on the pitch Coutinho is a great professional, he loves to work, but for players at this level when they are on the bench they can lose their course and this is not good for the club nor the player.

"He is such a very special player. If it was my decision, Coutinho would never had left."