Philippe Coutinho set for emotional transfer return as Mohamed Salah comparison speaks volumes

Philippe Coutinho playing for Qatari side Al-Duhail SC.
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Noushad Thekkayil/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho is on the brink of an emotional return to his boyhood club Vasco da Gama after agreeing to a significant wage reduction to part ways with Aston Villa. And amid the latest fall in his career, a comparison to Mohamed Salah is prescient.

Coutinho made the switch to Aston Villa from Barcelona in a $21m (£17m/€20m) deal back in May 2022, following a six-month loan spell in the West Midlands. He became a regular fixture under Steven Gerrard and remained involved when Unai Emery took over, but was allowed to depart last summer.

The Brazilian spent the previous season on loan at Qatar Stars League outfit Al-Duhail, where he netted eight times and provided three assists in 23 appearances. But now, according to Globo, Coutinho is poised for a permanent departure from Villa, with the club set to terminate his contract to facilitate his move back to Brazil with Vasco da Gama.

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Coutinho's football journey began in the youth ranks at Vasco before he moved to Inter Milan in 2008. He later enjoyed a two-year loan stint back at Vasco before breaking into Inter's first team, meaning this is a move that will mean plenty to him beyond the money, but it is nevertheless a big step down.

Coutinho is almost exactly the same age as Salah, but while one of them left Liverpool and then almost certainly regretted it, another remains a huge part of the Reds' set-up. Salah scored 25 goals last season while Coutinho was playing in a league with no audience outside of the country that it is played in.

Despite struggling to secure a regular spot at Inter, he made a $10.8m (£8.5m/€10.0m) move to Liverpool in January 2013 a decision that proved to be a game-changer. He quickly became a key player for the Reds, almost helping them clinch the Premier League title in his first full season, contributing five goals and seven assists in 33 matches.

Philippe Coutinho celebrates after scoring for Al-Duhail
Philippe Coutinho looks set to be on the move again this summer -Credit:Getty Images

His performance levels continued to rise as time went on but that seems a long time ago now. Coutinho's reputation was tarnished by the way he left Anfield and few Reds fans would have been shedding any tears at his demise.

Coutinho started the 2017/18 season in blistering form, scoring 12 goals and setting up nine more in just 20 games. This caught the attention of Barcelona, who secured his services for a whopping $180m (£142m/€168m) in January 2018, marking one of the most expensive transfers in football history.

However, as Salah continued to fly high, winning the Premier League and the Champions League, Coutinho's dream move to Catalonia turned into a nightmare. The Brazilian playmaker found it difficult to win over the Camp Nou faithful and struggled for regular playing time, leading to a loan spell at Bayern Munich for the 2019/20 season.

Now, Coutinho is reportedly on the verge of returning to Vasco after his $160,000-a-week contract was terminated. He will be taking a significant pay cut and it seems his time in the European game is over. Salah, meanwhile, is about to return to Europe's biggest stage. says: Coutinho at his best was simply unplayable, but he must wonder what might have been had he stayed at Anfield for a little longer. The Brazilian's career could have led to so much more.