When Philippe Coutinho made the move from Liverpool to Barcelona in January of 2018, some felt the writing appeared to be on the wall for Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool team. He had been a star player for years, and his departure was a major loss up front.
As it turned out, it was more of a sliding doors moment in the opposite direction. Things didn't quite work out for Coutinho in Spain, while the money raised from his transfer allowed Klopp to acquire the central defender (Virgil van Dijk) and goalkeeper (Alisson Becker) that his team so desperately needed.
Liverpool would go on to reach two consecutive Champions League finals, winning the second, and claim a first league title in 30 years two seasons later.
Coutinho's time at Barcelona somewhat whimpered out, with a loan move to Bayern Munich in 2019 spelling the end of any hope he had of making his mark in Spain. Ironically, it was during that year with Bayern, in a match against his parent club, when Coutinho made his biggest mark during his time with Barcelona.
Lisbon thrashing was where Philippe Coutinho left his mark with Barcelona
With the pandemic forcing a delay in the Champions League knockout rounds, and games played behind closed doors, UEFA made the decision to stage every game from the quarter-final stage on in a blitz-style tournament in Lisbon. Every game was played in the Portuguese capital over just one leg, over the course of two weeks in August.
The standout tie of the quarter-finals when the draw was made was between Bayern Munich and Barcelona, with two titans of the European game pitted against each other.
One of the interesting subplots of the game was the presence of Philippe Coutinho on the Bayern bench. Just a year prior, he had scored in the quarter-final for Barcelona against Manchester United, and now here he was potentially primed to come on against his employers.
What transpired was one of the most iconic and infamous of Champions League history. Bayern not only beat Barcelona, they put the sword to them. It was a ruthless performance, with goals from Thomas Muller, Ivan Perisic, Serge Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich, and Robert Lewandowski putting Bayern 6-2 up in the dying stages of the game.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 8, 2021
This was the ultimate humiliation. Not only had Barcelona been knocked out, they had been ripped apart by Bayern. The German side had demolished a once-great side, and the shots of the great Lionel Messi despondent on the field afterwards will long live in the memory.
But, to top it all off, for the final two goals of the historic 8-2 demolition to be scored by a player owned by the club was really the kicker for Barcelona.
It would have been hard to comprehend the situation of Philippe Coutinho ending up this way when he departed Anfield in 2018 but, save for a few moments here and there for La Blaugrana, his time in Barcelona will almost certainly be remembered more for the night in Lisbon in a Bayern Munich shirt than for anything done at the Nou Camp.
With the news of his return to the Premier League with Aston Villa, he will look forward to another reunion with a former club, when they host Liverpool in April. The last time they played in the league at Villa Park, Liverpool lost 7-2. Their fans will only be hoping that Coutinho and co. don't have Lisbon on their minds for a level up.