Coutinho out, Mata in at Barcelona?

European Transfer News

The Brazil international has struggled to establish himself in the Blaugrana first XI since his €142 million (R2.2b) switch from Liverpool in January last year and his future has come under doubt after several insipid displays in the absence of Ousmane Dembele through injury.

Sport recently claimed that Coutinho will speak to Ernesto Valverde about his long-term prospects amid links to Manchester United and potential Liverpool return.

Marca meanwhile stated Coutinho, who has made 20 starts in all competitions this term, will be kept in the starting line-up in a bid to build his confidence, although when Dembele returns from injury his place will be in jeopardy.

However, after his error-ridden display against Sevilla in the Copa Del Rey first-leg defeat, Sport suggests that Valverde has 'given up' on Coutinho gaining the tactical maturity to develop in the Blaugrana midfield.

The former Athletic Bilbao boss is apparently completely unconvinced by his ability to play in a midfield three, and he is low in the pecking order for a spot on the wing.

According to Mundo Deportivo, the Catalan giants could already be lining up Coutinho's replacement in United midfielder Juan Mata on a free transfer as a more reliable back-up option, which would render the Brazilian surplus to requirements - leading to his eventual exit.

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Mata's agent has flown to Barcelona to initiate talks over a possible deal, while the Manchester Evening News state that the Red Devils have offered the Spaniard fresh terms, but that there are disagreements.

It's claimed United wanted to tie Mata down to a new £140,000 a week deal in the wake of rival interest from Arsenal – but the interest from Barcelona offers fresh concern for the club's efforts to keep the Spanish playmaker beyond the end of the season.