I don’t like people messing about with Liverpool Football Club.
In the same way others think that ancient scriptures should not be tampered with and that the word of the deities to which they sing should be unbendable, I am of the mind that no one should meddle with the central ethos of the club to further their own means.
Of course, this is the textbook definition of zealotry and though I find it bitterly distasteful in others, my own brand is fine. In fact, I’ve no idea why no one else is on-board. I have all the answers, see. Apart from most of them (all of them).
So when a player starts making eyes at another club and talks of ‘dream moves’, my brow becomes furrowed. I’m piqued. Irked. Surely he’s already had his dream move. Internazionale to Liverpool. Paradise is in Liverpool L4. What doesn’t he understand about this?
Now, let’s be clear here. This is only the case when the player is any good and useful. I’ve committed time to the strong bond I believe exists between us. Philippe and I have this understanding, see. I sing his name and he scores goals and does good things. El Hadji Diouf and I have no such relationship. He can have as many dream moves as he likes. I think he exhausted most of the options in that regard. Yes, he went with a light heart.
Coutinho did good things. Many, many good things so he’s different.
So there’s a strong stench of hypocrisy in all this and it’s one I’m more than happy to admit to. Philippe going came at a cost where others went with a smile. We lost a lot when he ran off and it’s taken till now for us to all but forget him.
Not that Liverpool were not rewarded. That £142m came in handy, but that wasn’t mine to spend. I’d subscribed to him and his life. I’d committed. He owed me.
I met him once. I was late leaving Anfield after the home game vs Augsburg in 2016 when our paths crossed. I was walking across the car park as he came out of the stadium and headed towards his car. He noticed me and then examined his feet intensely to avoid eye contact. I couldn’t blame him – I’d avoid me on a dark night too, but I thought I’d chance my arm.
‘Good luck on Sunday, mate.’
It was to be the League Cup final against City and he had nothing but the opposite as it turned out. I thought that ‘mate’ would put him at ease.
A shy smile. ‘Thank you.’ Back to his feet-examination again.
Honestly, it was like Brief Encounter.
He was always going to be the next one to leave. Keegan, Souness, Rush, Robbie, Owen, Torres, Suarez all went without our (my) permission. Only Gerrard and Kenny stayed true to ‘our bond’. I only hoped that when the time came he would do it with some vestige of dignity. Owen and Torres got under my skin despite me learning my lesson in 1977 when, as an angry eight-year-old, I tore down bedroom posters of King Kev, swearing blind that this new Dalglish lad wouldn’t hold a candle to him. Yes, just like my good luck wishes nearly forty years later, my prediction successes have never been the strongest.
And yet like Owen before him, he too acted the goat. Issuing a transfer request on the opening day of the season at Vicarage Road led to him derailing plans. It was exactly the opposite of what I wanted. Oh, he still tore it up when it came to the football stuff, but he’d tarnished things. Maybe it wouldn’t happen. After all, Stevie nearly went and I forgave him that. Maybe…
Off like a rat up a drainpipe.
Barcelona’s courtship was appalling with their public pronouncements and hints before a contract was scratched. Their behaviour destroyed any image they had of their boast ‘Mes que un club.’ ‘More than a club’ indeed. More like—and I’m guessing a bit here—‘el mateix que la resta’. ‘The same as the others’. Decades of difference wiped away with premature announcements and kowtowing to the sponsorship needs of major footwear manufacturers. In fact, on our weekly Anfield Index podcast, Trev Downey, Kam Brainch and I know Coutinho only as ‘Nike’.
So not only did that move ruin Philippe and I, but it also set my face against the Catalan giants, whom I always felt were somehow ‘simpatico’ with Liverpool. Ah, well.
I’d be lying if I were to say I’ve religiously followed his time in Catalonia. The second he left I ended any interest in him. I’ve only seen the one goal—Spurs at Wembley. Once you’ve gone, you’ve gone. I know as much about him as I do Alberto Aquilani and Milan Jovanovic.
That said there have been reports in the press that he’s regretting his move and is questioning just how he can get into THAT starting eleven. Like that was never going to be an issue.
Schadenfreude—the enjoyment of others’ misfortune—is petty and unattractive. Nevertheless, many of us sniggered at this news. I hugged a wonderful thought to myself. What if Liverpool announced we were bringing him back only to announce that we’d hurt our back and would be unavailable to complete the transfer?
There’s talk of him coming back here for a second go.
No no no no no no no.
Here comes that hypocrisy thing again.
If Phillipe Coutinho came back and saw us win the League and, to a lesser extent, the Champions League, I’d forgive all and welcome back to my heart. That’s big of me, isn’t it? Liverpool come first after all and, as this would not involve messing Liverpool about, I’m in all the way.
I just can’t stomach a volte-face of that nature. He’s shat on us once and the feeling he’d condescend to a lesser ‘dream move’ for his own career rather than put the club first in all this makes me uneasy. Sure, Robbie came back, but that was completely different. He didn’t want to leave in the first place and did nothing to engineer a move. Philippe did more engineering than the Brunel family.
So he’s more than welcome as long as he comes with trophies. If he doesn’t, he can sod off. Once bitten etc. Well, more than once, let’s be honest.
There’s even talk of him going to United. That’s too grim to even contemplate.
It’s probably best if he stays where he is. Unless … unless …
Welcome back, Philippe!