Ernesto Valverde responds to Man Utd transfer speculation

The Brazilian has been linked with the Nou Camp exit, and a potential return to the Premier League with Manchester United.

Philippe Coutinho has been backed by Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde, who insists he hopes the Brazilian will remain at the club this month.

Coutinho arrived at Camp Nou from Liverpool 12 months ago, in a deal potentially worth £142million to the Reds.

However, he has been left on the bench in the club’s last four La Liga matches after only showing intermittent glimpses of quality this term.

Valverde has been preferring Ousmane Dembele on the left side of his front three and Spanish publication Marca claim Coutinho has ‘hit rock bottom’ as a result of his current situation.

He was on target in the Copa del Rey in midweek but that was his first goal since October and he has been warned he must knuckle down and fight for his place.

Amid speculation that Manchester United could be primed to move to bring him back to the Premier League this month, Valverde has offered further clarification on the 26-year-old’s future.

“Throughout the season the games are happening, and in some games they are not so lucky,” said the Barca boss.

“Coutinho has played great games with us and we hope he will continue to do so. The other day was not a good match on our part; Coutinho has had great games and we hope he will continue to do so.

“Others will have to improve as we all have to improve, [but] I pay more attention to the things he does well. He has a lot of good things and we are going to try to take advantage of them.

“But it has to help us to take a step forward.”

Valverde also insists he has no issue potentially playing Coutinho and Dembele in the same lineup.

“It is a possibility that they can play together. Now they are doing less but at certain times it may be like that.

“I try to play with a certain balance, and there are times when that way of playing can come in handy and sometimes not.”

However, with Barcelona this week seeing an offer for Willian rejected by Chelsea, and the continued push in some quarters to bring Neymar back to Catalunya, the future of Coutinho remains in question.