It's going to be a long month.
The January Transfer window: an ITK journalist’s dream, a supporter’s nightmare. It’s a more convoluted rumor mill than a high school hallway. It’s when otherwise normal people turn into CIA operatives, discovering and reading into every move that every player, and every player’s relatives, make — why was this player booked on a flight through this airport? Why did this player start following this other player on Twitter? Why did this player’s aunt like this comment on Instagram?
Coutinho's aunt, Ines Maria, liked an Instagram comment which said: "Last year in Liverpool."
— ᵁᴸᵀᴿᴬ® (@UltraAutistic) January 2, 2018
The two biggest question marks right now, of course, are Alexis Sanchez and Philippe Coutinho. Sanchez has not hidden his intent to leave, expressing his desire to play in the Champions League and putting in mostly half-hearted shifts since the start of the season — excluding Arsenal’s past two games, which you might be able to chalk up to showing off for potential suitors. He’s been linked to Manchester City — who need no help on the front line, mind you, and should really leave some talent for the rest of us — and Liverpool, strongly enough that it seems more of function of who than when.
Not that Arsenal fans won’t be happy to see the door hit him on the way out by now.
Coutinho’s fate, on the other hand, is much more up in the air.
As they were over the summer, Brazilian journalists have already begun reporting it as a done deal; English journalists remain tight-lipped. Then, there was Nike inexplicably putting up an ad for Coutinho Barcelona shirts overnight, pulling them shortly after.
But would a transfer at this stage make sense for anybody involved? Unless they demand significantly more money, Liverpool refusing so publicly in the summer just to sell him five months later would be quite odd; when they found themselves in a similar situation with Suarez, they made him wait out a full season with the understanding that he’d be sent on his merry way come the following summer. Coutinho himself would miss out on the rest of the Champions League, being cup-tied, and although he might actually find his way into the squad once Barcelona clinch the La Liga title by, say, mid-February, losing valuable playing time in a World Cup year isn’t the smartest move for the Brazilian. And Barcelona, judging by their current 9-point lead at the top of the table, don’t exactly need the reinforcement.
At least Coutinho, unlike Alexis, has kept his mouth shut and his performances intact while the battle between clubs goes on behind the scenes.
The way the news coverage has been so far, you’d think Coutinho and Alexis were the only two players anyone was interested in, but plenty of other stories have been bubbling up. Thomas Lemar seems still set on a move to the Premier League; Jose Mourinho will probably splash some more cash, given how much he’s complained about not doing enough in the summer; Umtiti also might be headed to Manchester City. The headlines are writing themselves.
And it’s only January 3rd — we’ve got a long way to go.