Will stratospheric talent outweigh the sheer cost and inconsistency?

Aston Villa will make a decision on Philippe Coutinho’s future next month, in what appears to have gone from a no-brainer to a potential dilemma.

Coutinho would cost Villa £33m to sign from Barcelona, ​​while salary expectations could be at least £8m a year, even if he takes a significant pay cut.

After five games without a goal or an assist, and an anonymous performance at Leicester on Saturday, the huge numbers of this transfer become clearer.

At his best, Coutinho operates in a different stratosphere than most Premier League players. In many games at Villa, especially against Southampton and Leeds [twice]has stood out, transforming matches with moments of magic and invention.

Coutinho was also brilliant in the first half against Tottenham earlier this month, something that can be easily forgotten after a 4-0 loss at home.

However, there have also been games where he seems like a luxury signing, unable to influence the team and seemingly struggling to find his right position as a striker or number 10.

Before he was substituted 11 minutes from time at the King Power Stadium, Villa’s roving supporters had chanted Emiliano Buendía’s name, while Coutinho and Leon Bailey struggled to make an impact.

While Coutinho’s fee won’t be a problem for Villa’s wealthy owners, for such a large outlay in wages they could reasonably expect a higher level of consistency.

Villa are not the only club with these considerations as they weigh the potential return on such a massive investment. Even one of the world’s most consistent players, Mohamed Salah, has been unable to strike a new deal at Liverpool because his salary could absorb much of the budget.

Balancing the long-term financial consequences of such deals with the team’s short-term needs can be tricky.

Villa need to ensure that Coutinho is the game-changing signing that can inspire them towards European qualification next season.

His next two games, against Norwich and Burnley, represent a real opportunity for him to wreak havoc.

But it is the games against Liverpool, looming on May 10, where Villa may need Coutinho to shine if the club is to justify putting together such a huge financial package.

Gerrard said: “We can’t expect Phil to be the man of the match, creator and goalscorer every time he plays.

“We will continue to work with him and prepare him and I am sure it will only be a matter of time. I don’t have to stand here and defend Philippe Coutinho; he defends himself with the level he has.

“He has shown in his time that he has been here that he is more than capable.”

Saturday’s game was more of a showcase for the defenders, with Villa securing their first goalless draw of the season.

Leicester tired towards the end and perhaps had an eye on their Europa Conference League semi-final against José Mourinho’s Roma, with the first leg on Thursday.

It is the first European semi-final for both the club and manager Brendan Rodgers, and represents a chance to salvage a difficult season.

Rodgers said: “I’m really looking forward to it and it’s about the development of this ever-growing club.

“We have had European football for the last few years and we would love to have it again next year. This gives us the opportunity to do so.”

“The fans here have been amazing for us and we need their support, their drive and intensity to match that on the pitch.”

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