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Liverpool played the Coutinho game perfectly

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Buy for $15 million, sell for (a possible) $192 million. Barcelona has won the Philippe Coutinho sweepstakes, but so has Liverpool.

The Reds got all they could out of the Brazilian midfield star, and when they could not get any more, they cashed in at the highest possible value. Last week’s sale of Coutinho to Barcelona was the best possible result for the Merseyside club, one still looking to regain its footing as a top challenger in the Premier League.

There was no keeping Coutinho forever. He was always going to leave, ever since he came closer than many thought over the summer. Nay, instead, they cashed in on a peak 2016/17 season where Coutinho was arguably the best player in the Premier League, a sell-high proposition that only the most wealthy of clubs would have been able to pass up.

[ MORE: Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang set for move to China ]

Coutinho is an unbelievable player, and Liverpool will surely be the worse for wear without his brilliance on the ball or magic from set-pieces. It may even cost Liverpool a top four place this season, as holding off Tottenham and Arsenal without the club’s best creator will be a daunting task. However, every player has his price, and Liverpool surely exceeded Coutinho’s.

It all becomes clear when looking at the numbers.

The biggest difference between Coutinho’s 2016/17 brilliance and this half-season appears to be his shot-selection, which has declined considerably. Last season, Coutinho took a total of 106 shots in Premier League play, with 40 of those coming inside the penalty area ((38%). The combined xG per shot for Coutinho through last season was about 0.09. We know Coutinho is not a pure goalscorer first and foremost, and those paltry numbers shouldn’t surprise anyone given his style of play and his ability to score fabulous goals from great distance. Nevertheless, giving up possession in the hopes of scoring a wonder-goal is a negative aspect of Coutinho’s play, and that has done nothing but get worse this season.

This year, through half a season, Coutinho has taken just 14 of his 54 shots (26%) from inside the penalty area, for a total xG per shot of 0.06. That paltry number has gone down even further, despite the benefit of a better attacking side around him that has helped increase his key passes per 90 minutes by nearly three quarters of a point.

While this is just one small aspect of Coutinho’s game, it suggests that Liverpool have sold high on a player who, while brilliant, may have maxed out his play while in the Premier League. It would be foolish to say Coutinho’s 2016/17 season was a fluke, or even an outlier, but it was likely above the mean for his ability.

What Liverpool must now do is bank that $192 million and reinvest it properly, and there’s no reason to suggest they can’t.

Liverpool has already added Mohammed Salah this past offseason, a brilliant arrival that is almost certainly the signing of the season already. Sadio Mane, an addition last summer, has brought a cutting edge to the attack. Roberto Firmino was expensive, but worth it. Heck, they even bought Coutinho from Inter in January 2013 for pennies on the dollar (which is becoming a VERY bad look for the Italian side).

However, like any top club, they’ve also missed a few. The $33 million spent on Georginio Wijnaldum at this point appears to be a miss, although he’s settled into more of a starting role of late suggesting things could turn around. Christian Benteke was a disaster, although they managed to con Crystal Palace into giving them a hefty chunk of it back. Lazar Markovic was a waste. This is normal, and Liverpool has done well to mitigate the failures in the transfer market while highlighting the successes.

There’s plenty of pressure on the Reds to finish the job and reinvest properly. They need to replace the Brazilian (Christian Pulisic, not Riyad Mahrez) while also improving at the back (Virgil Van Dijk hopefully plugs a big hole there) and filling a need at goalkeeper (Samir Handanovic, anyone?). Despite that, all the signs point to a bright future for Liverpool, and this massive influx of cash could be the turning point that gets them over the hump to returning as a perennial Champions League contender, even if it costs them a top four spot this season.

Borussia Dortmund signs Nico Schulz from Hoffenheim

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DORTMUND, Germany (AP) Borussia Dortmund signed Germany defender Nico Schulz from Bundesliga rival Hoffenheim on Tuesday.

Dortmund, which finished runner-up in the league, said the 26-year-old Schulz signed a deal through June 2024.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

“We will benefit greatly from his physicality, his tempo and his extreme dynamism,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said. “A player like him with his fighting spirit and his desire to be successful would help any team.”

Schulz, who will be familiar to Dortmund coach Lucien Favre from their time together at Borussia Moenchengladbach, scored one goal and set up six more for Hoffenheim last season.

Kicker magazine reported that Dortmund was paying 27 million euros ($30 million) for the player, making Schulz Dortmund’s second most expensive signing after Andre Schuerrle.

Schulz has scored two goals in six appearances for Germany.

Dortmund was also reportedly on the verge of signing 19-year-old Spanish right back Mateu Morey on a free transfer from Barcelona, while Belgium international Thorgan Hazard was expected to join from Gladbach and Germany midfielder Julian Brandt of Bayer Leverkusen remained a target.

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Chelsea would let Juventus hire Sarri for $7m fee

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Maurizio Sarri looks set for a second-straight offseason of “Will Chelsea or won’t they?”

One year after needing the Blues to sort out the removal of Antonio Conte and compensation with Napoli, Sarri could now be moving back to Italy.

[ MORE: Man Utd nears $20m signing ]

But Chelsea won’t make any decisions on his future until after the Europa League Final in Baku next week, and reportedly would let him leave for Juventus if the Serie A side pays a $7 million fee.

Sarri also criticized the Blues’ preseason trip to America, and Matt Law’s report says the manager is fine to stay in England but may want to return to Italy. Roma is also searching for a manager.

Chelsea’s playing style under Sarri drew criticism from supporters but the Blues are in the Europa League Final, finished third in the Premier League, and came within penalty kicks of beating Manchester City to the League Cup title.

Maybe the cigarette-chomping Sarri isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but his success on the table and tournaments with a transfer ban looming was pretty solid. Chelsea could do much worse.

Man Utd set to add $20m Swans winger James

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Manchester United’s first signing of the summer will be a Welsh international forward, but not that one, presuming the clubs sort out the transfer fee.

Swansea City winger Daniel James has agreed to terms with United, according to Sky Sports.

The 21-year-old is expected to cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s men about $20 million.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

James scored five times with 10 assists for Graham Potter in all competitions this season, totaling 2800 minutes for Swans.

Only Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish was fouled more per game than James, who was taken to the turf 2.7 times per match. He mostly played on the left wing this season.

Twice-capped by Wales, James turns 22 in November. How long will it take him to make the jump from Championship star to Premier League contributor?

Martinez names Kompany in Belgium squad

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Roberto Martinez is going to suit up a manager as Belgium fights to qualify for EURO 2020.

Okay, okay, that manager is Anderlecht player-manager Vincent Kompany, mere days removed from sealing a domestic treble for Manchester City.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Kompany, 33, has been called up by Belgium for the first time since November. He has 87 caps with four goals for the Red Devils, and perhaps the nickname will be a little less awkward now that he’s not a member of the Premier League’s “noisy neighbors.”

Here’s what Martinez had to say about Kompany’s inclusion.

“In modern football it is not easy to combine the job of player and coach,” Martinez added. “In England they have a tradition of that but less and less because the job of coach has become enormously demanding. We must give him time. We will support him in everything he does.”

Belgium is in a qualifying group with Russia, Cyprus, Scotland, Kazakhstan, and San Marino, and should waltz into the tournament.