Barcelona should forget about Coutinho and sign Tottenham's Christian Eriksen to replace Andres Iniesta

Jurgen Klopp made the interesting decision to play Phlippe Coutinho in a more withdrawn position against West Ham at the limply monikered London Stadium last weekend. It was decision that paid off immensely, as the miniature Brazilian dictated play superbly, helping himself to two more goals and laying on a devilishly tasty assist for the returning Daniel Sturridge in the process. Both those feats went someway to consolidating his reign as the Premier League’s most productive Brazilian.

Deploying the former Inter man in such a role allowed him to see more of the game in front of him, and also provided Liverpool with a player who could pick out the runs of the always on the shoulder Daniel Sturridge. Coutinho took advantage of the lack of mobility in the Hammers midfield and swanned around cigar in mouth all afternoon. It was a joy to watch.

With the player heavily linked to Barcelona in recent weeks you couldn’t help but fear that the Reds manager may have inadvertently handed the player the most perfect of auditions for a switch to Cataluna next season. Let’s be clear about it, if Coutinho is to make the switch to the Camp Nou, he is not going to play a prominent role in the front three give the current crop currently at the Spanish giants’ disposal. Instead, he’s more likely to be seen as the man to replace Andres Iniesta.

Luis Enrique has handled Iniesta delicately this term.  Regularly rested and less consistently influential, the great orchestrator of this magical Barca side is seemingly winding down, much like his great friend Xavi before him, he can’t be relied upon to be their go-to midfield man.

Bringing in Coutinho would of course be a great addition, but Barcelona’s interests may be better founded elsewhere in the Premier League. More precisely, their admiring gaze should be more firmly fixed on Christian Eriksen.

The great Dane has had a remarkable season for Spurs. The goalscoring feats of Dele Alli may have outshone him at times but, for me, he has been far and away the Londoners’ top performer this campaign.

His numbers alone are excellent. Eriksen has been involved in 21 goals so far this season, eight of them scored by himself and 13 coming from one of his delicious assists. Only Kevin De Bruyne has created more goals in the Premier League this term. The 25-year-old has played in 35 of Tottenham’s 37 matches so far, he chalked up the same amount the year before and was an ever-present in 2014/15. He very rarely gets inured. That is extremely attractive to potential suitors. By contrast, Coutinho has played a part in 31 and 27 games respectively over the previous two campaigns.

Eriksen’s link play with Harry Kane has been a familiar feature under Mauricio Pocchettino, in fact, since August 2015 the Kane to Eriksen combo, has resulted in nine Premier League goals, no combination is more fruitful. He’s the sort of player who sniffs out the clever runs of forward players, much like the aforementioned Iniesta. That could be devilishly potent behind the likes of Messi, Suarez and Neymar.

With that front three, it’s almost certain that the likes of Coutinho or Eriksen would have to play, as Iniesta does nowadays, in the midfield trio, and while Coutinho did that impressively against West Ham, Eriksen is a comparative veteran of such a role compared to his Brazilian counterpart. The Danish international regularly operates in that position for Spurs, and is acutely more aware of midfield duties than the diminutive Liverpool man. Coutinho as a number eight is great as a one off but could it really be sustained across a full season? It would be a real and expensive risk to take.

Perhaps the most important thing about Christian Eriksen, and quite possibly the thing that makes him ideal for the famous shirt of Barcelona, is that he can control the tempo of a football match. There are few, if any, who do it better on the continent. Eriksen glides in to space and regularly takes the ball off the likes of Wanyama and Dier and sprays passes, long and short, as he accelerates and decelerates the speed of play. It is his delicate control of the pace of the game that makes him so mesmerizing to watch. He will slow the play down until just the right moment when Dele Alli or Heung Son Min explodes and Eriksen unleashes the perfect pass; it is a skill possessed by so few in the game.

That’s exactly what the Blaugrana require. It’s what Iniesta does. He’s the conductor, controlling everything around him, taking on responsibility for how the team will attack. Take him out of the side and it’s not quite the same. Barca have to try, somehow, to replace that this summer, Eirksen would go some way to doing so. You just can’t envisage Coutinho coming short and dictating play, he’s too much of a number 10, too direct. Eriksen’s patience is key.

As much as this writer would like to see him remain in north London, a switch to Barcelona just feels right. Everything from his humility, to his almost understated appearance reeks of Barcelona.

The fact that Spurs players are notoriously ‘underpaid’ would surely play into the Spanish club’s hands, and quite simply, when they come calling very few people say no.

 Although it feels like Eriksen is at the peak of his powers, his best years are most likely still ahead of him, he is still just 25, only a year older than Coutinho, yet far more mature in footballing years. If Barca are to delve into the transfer market this summer they should do all they can to bring Christian Eriksen to the Camp Nou.