Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone feels that Barcelona’s new signing Philippe Coutinho will play an “important” part in the title race.
Coutinho’s move to Barcelona is the second most expensive transfer of all time, second to Paris-Saint Germain’s Neymar’s £198m fee. The Brazilian completed his transfer to the Camp Nou on Monday.
The transfer will also break the record for the highest fee ever paid by a Spanish team. Barcelona will pay around €120m up front, and the remaining €40m in add-ons.
Barcelona are unbeaten after 18 league games and already nine points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid. Atletico manager Simeone fears that Coutinho’s arrival at the club could prove out to be a decisive blow in the title race.
In press conference, he said: “It’s healthy and important that someone has the chance to sign players like Coutinho, although he can’t play in the Champions League. It makes La Liga much stronger. With the gap that Barcelona have, it’s a very important step.”
Atletico next face minnows Lleida in the second leg of their Copa Del Rey last-16 tie on Tuesday. Key players including Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin, Jan Oblak, Koke, Sime Vrsaljko, Saul Niguez, Jose Gimenez and Thomas Partey have been left out of the squad.
With many stars being rested, Simeone plans to give winger Vitolo his debut. Another new signing, Diego Costa, is also likely to play as the striker is suspended for Saturday’s trip to Eibar.
Simeone said: “Vitolo only just arrived and he has to get used to the team’s need for his talent to help us. He is working enthusiastically, he’s ready and he’ll start the game.
The idea is that he [Costa] can’t be there against Eibar, so he’ll have minutes. The arrival of big, important players, like those who have come in the January market, help the team and the players notice that. Obviously, the team improves and the people outside the club can see that.”
I personally agree with what Simeone had to say. Coutinho’s inclusion in the Barcelona squad can prove to be the difference. As the Brazilian is cup-tied in the Champions League, he will be primarily focusing on the domestic honor personally.