Ronald Koeman hailed Philippe Coutinho, who scored in FC Barcelona’s 3-1 win in La Liga over Valencia on Sunday, saying that he has “always believed” in the midfielder.
The Barcelona head coach also suggested that Coutinho could earn a larger role in the team provided he doesn’t get injured much.
Coutinho came off the bench to score Barcelona’s third goal against Valencia, which marked the Brazilian player’s first top-flight goal since late-2020. Last season, he made only 14 competitive appearances for the Catalans as he was out of action for the majority of the term due to a rupture of the outer meniscus.
When reporters asked Koeman about Coutinho’s performance on Sunday at the post-match conference, the Dutch boss replied, “It was good. When he entered the game he was good. With his freedom, we were able to control the game better. He knows how to score goals. He has taken an important step because I have always believed in Coutinho. Physically, he is getting better and better.”
Coutinho, who moved from Liverpool FC to Barcelona at $195 million in 2018, has since struggled to seal a permanent place in the side.
Earlier in the day, Memphis Depay scored from the spot after Barcelona earned a penalty, courtesy of Ansu Fati being fouled when the forward was bearing down on goal. Reacting to the debates regarding the controversial penalty, Koeman said, “You can doubt whether it is a penalty or not. The referee has whistled, the VAR has not entered and, therefore, it is a penalty.”
The league game against Valencia also saw Sergio Aguero make his Barcelona debut as he came off the bench at the 87th minute. Meanwhile, Ansu Fati, who recently returned to action following a long injury lay-off, netted the equalizer after Valencia opened the scoring just five minutes after the whistle.
“It is the same case as Ansu. He is an important player for his quality and experience. We want to give him minutes and he will be physically better to help the team. It is not a quality issue, but a fitness issue,” added Koeman.
With the latest win, Barcelona have jumped to seventh place in the 2021-22 La Liga table. The Blaugrana host Dynamo Kyiv in midweek in the Champions League before they return to prepare for a long-awaited El Clasico clash with Real Madrid on Oct. 24.