'A Villa vanity project that failed'

Aston Villa expert view graphic
Philippe Coutinho
[Getty Images]

Philippe Coutinho was a vanity project for Aston Villa.

Seen as a coup at the time of his January 2022 loan, Barcelona's £142m record signing never delivered.

Steven Gerrard, his former Liverpool team-mate and then Villa boss, hailed him as a "brilliant signing for the club" while Christian Purslow, chief executive at the time, announced Coutinho's permanent move with fanfare at the club's end-of-season dinner in 2022 and the pair embraced on stage.

A dramatic entrance, an assist and a goal on his debut in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United in January 2022, was supposed to herald the perfect relationship. Coutinho was expected to recapture the form that made him one of the Premier League's best at Liverpool - and Villa would rise up the table.

However, they got a shadow of the player who lit up Anfield and it was he who was hauled off after 65 minutes against League Two Stevenage when Villa were dumped out of the FA Cup in 2023.

Ultimately, the Brazil international was a bump in the road on what has become a successful journey to the Champions League for Villa.

They have achieve their goals and progressed without him, which says much for the planning of Monchi, Villa's president of football operations and the drive and organisation of boss Unai Emery, along with their structured recruitment.

His arrival was a statement and helped raise the club's profile and, regardless of the outcome, his signing on reputation represented where Villa wanted to be, rather than where they were at the time.