Philippe Coutinho has returned to Barcelona seemingly with high hopes of having a part to play.
But he has received a harsh reality check from the club on the eve of the new season after his No.7 shirt was given away.
The Brazilian playmaker was handed the iconic shirt two seasons ago when Arda Turan left the club having initially worn No.14 when his Liverpool tranfer was completed.
When he left on loan for Bayern Munich last summer, the number remained vacant throughout the campaign with LaLiga rules preventing it from being given to someone else.
But, despite Coutinho’s return to the club, the number has been given away to Antoine Griezmann as Barcelona confirmed the news in a clip with basketball star Kevin Durant.
The Frenchman took the No.17 shirt when he headed to the Nou Camp from Atletico Madrid with Coutinho already holding the No.7.
Griezmann now takes back the number he wore for Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid and France with Coutinho’s new number yet to be confirmed.
The news appears to be a clear indication of Coutinho’s standing at the club, despite hoping to carve out a role under new manager Koeman.
It has been claimed he will get a chance to prove himself and could be deployed in a central midfield role under the Dutchman.
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But it is clear he still faces an uphill task to salvage something out of his career at the Nou Camp as he remains open to a potential Premier League return.
Agent Kia Joorabchian offered clarity on his future this month and expects his client to stay in Spain.
Asked by talkSPORT whether he expects Coutinho to stay at the Nou Camp, the player’s agent Kia Joorabchian said: “Yeah. Koeman called him right after the Champions League victory with Bayern, the following day, and told him he’s very much in his plans and would like him to return.
“He was due to return on September 7 but actually he returned at the beginning of September because he didn’t want to lose his momentum and fitness, and he’s been training with Barcelona.
“All signs point to the fact Barcelona have changed quite dramatically, the way their philosophy of how they wanted to move forward from last year and the players they’ve brought in, like Coutinho, [Ousmane] Dembele and [Antoine] Griezmann they’re all going to be part of the squad this year.”
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