Barcelona Makes Shock Decision About Messi’s No. 10 Shirt: Report

Lionel Messi's Barcelona shirt

Getty Lionel Messi's Barcelona shirt

Barcelona has reportedly offered outcast Philippe Coutinho the chance to take over Lionel Messi’s No. 10 shirt for the new season following the Argentina international’s shock departure from the club.

The famous number is still available and has not been used in pre-season or in Sunday’s opening La Liga fixture against Real Sociedad. According to Roger Torello at Mundo Deportivo, Coutinho has been offered the number for the 2021-22 campaign and is currently “considering” whether to take it on.

The decision is a surprise one given Coutinho has failed to live up to his huge price tag since swapping Liverpool for Barcelona in January 2018. The Brazilian has regularly been linked with an exit, spent the 2019-20 campaign out on loan at Bayern Munich and missed most of last season through injury.

Torello adds that Coutinho “has not ruled out wearing” the number on Saturday in Barcelona’s second game of the new season at Athletic and may have little choice as there are no other numbers available.

The Brazilian wore the No. 7 when he first arrived at the Camp Nou but then headed out on loan to Bayern. Coutinho subsequently handed the No. 7 to Antoine Griezmann and took the No. 14.

Reserve striker Rey Manaj was handed the No. 14 for Sunday’s match, leaving Coutinho without a squad number currently. The Brazilian was not included in the matchday squad against Real Sociedad but could return in Saturday’s match at Athletic.

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Coutinho Set For Another Chance at Barcelona?

Coutinho could be set for another chance at Barcelona following the departure of Messi and also because the Catalan giants have not received any offers for the Brazilian, according to Torello.

His situation at the club has taken a “radical change” after Gerard Pique agreed a salary reduction and with the other captains expected to follow his example. Coutinho could now stay and have another shot at becoming a regular at the Camp Nou.

Torello adds that Coutinho is part of coach Ronald Koeman’s plans for the future. The Dutchman “is convinced” the 29-year-old “can play a prominent role” for Barca as he will “have more freedom to shine.”

Coutinho started last season brightly, following his return from Bayern, but lost his place in the team to starlet Pedri. The Brazilian then picked up a knee injury which required surgery in January and saw his season ended prematurely.

Coutinho Camp Reject Arsenal Rumors

There has been plenty of speculation regarding Coutinho’s future at Barcelona throughout the season, most recently with rumors suggesting the Brazilian could be heading back to the Premier League with Arsenal.

A report from Sky Sports claimed that Barcelona wanted to sign striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and could offer Coutinho as part of the deal.

Coutinho’s camp have responded to the rumors and denied the possibility of Coutinho heading to the Emirates Stadium with Aubameyang coming the other way, as reported by Torello.

The speculation followed on from Koeman telling a pre-match press conference, ahead of Barca’s La Liga opener, that he wanted to bring in another attacker if the club could make the numbers work.

Yet that seems unlikely after president Joan Laporta confirmed the extent of the club’s financial troubles on Monday. The 59-year-old told reporters the club has debts of €1.35bn ($1.59bn) and a net worth of minus €451m ($531m).

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