The Cask Of Philippe Coutinho

The Coutinho transfer saga, as told by Edgar Allen Poe

(Wikimedia Commons)

Soon after the end of the summer transfer window, The Independent published a story on the drawn-out transfer saga involving Philippe Coutinho. The article made an incredible claim: that Barcelona’s sporting director (and former Liverpool academy technical manager), José Segura, led the campaign to sign Coutinho motivated, at least in part, by spite against his former employer. Such a drawn-out revenge plot sounds so exquisite, so overwrought, that it reads like something out of 19th Century Gothic literature.

With that in mind, we present to you a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask Of Amontillado,” recast with contemporary characters ripped straight from the backpages. 

The thousand injuries of John W. Henry I had borne as best I could; but when he ventured upon forcing me out at Liverpool, I vowed revenge.

You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat. I was happy at Liverpool. I had a successful stint at the Academy, and I was looking forward to getting started as the new sporting director. But God Forbid the incoming manager answer to someone just slightly above him, so no promotion for ol’ Pep!

At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled—but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong. Like, oh, I don’t know, showing up to work on your first day in your new position and then learning that you’re not getting that promotion after all because a new employee lower than you on the food chain specified you not getting this new job as a condition for coming to work here. And they say I’m the one being petty.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Henry cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my to smile now was at the thought of his immolation. Or at least his embarrassment in the Daily Mail.


He had a weak point—this Henry—although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in Brazilian players. Few Americans have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practise imposture upon the tech and finance billionaires. In baseball and stock car racing, Henry, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of Brazilian footballers he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially; —I was skillful in the attackers myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one afternoon during the supreme madness of the preseason training, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been rewatching clips from the 2013-14 season when Liverpool almost won the title. By then I had already resigned from the club because somebody who shall remain nameless but whose name rhymes with Frendon Grodgers didn’t want to answer to a sporting director. How did Raheem Sterling work out for you that season? Pretty good, right? I mean it’s not like I WAS LARGELY RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS DEVELOPMENT. It’s fine. Really, it’s fine.

The man wore motley. He had on tight-fitting jeans, and his head was surmounted by a cowboy hat. (Seriously? You live in Boston, my dude. You’re not fooling anyone.) I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him—”My dear Henry, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day. But I have received a transfer offer for Neymar, and I have my doubts.”

“How?” said he. “Neymar, an offer? Impossible! And in the middle of the International Champions Cup!”

“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to think no one would meet his release clause.”

“Neymar!”

“I have my doubts.”

“Neymar!”

“And I must satisfy them.”

“Neymar!”

“As you are engaged, I am on my way to Paris. If any one has a critical turn it is they. They will tell me—”

“They still think they can win the Champions League someday. Incredible.”

“And yet some fools will have it that their business savvy is a match for your own.”

“Come, let us go.”

“Whither?”

“To my office.”

“My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive you have other transfer business. Southampton—”

“I have no other business;—come.”

We came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood together upon the damp ground of the catacombs of the Scousers.

The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the clips upon his belt buckle jingled as he strode.

“The add-ons,” he said.

“It is farther down the contract,” said I; “but observe the intricate passing from our Barca teams from ten years ago.”

The video clips sparkled in his eyes and the fax machine screeched. My own fancy grew warm with my Twitter notifications. We had passed through long walls of piled midfielders, with trophies and Shankly quotes intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the training ground. I paused again, and this time I made bold to seize Henry by an arm above the elbow.

“The transfer fees!” I said; “see, they increase. They hang like moss upon the conference room walls. Come, we will go back ere it is too late. Your FFP compliance—”

“LOL,” he said; “like UEFA will ever actually enforce that.”

At the most remote end of the office there appeared another less spacious. Its walls had been lined with pictures from Istanbul, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. It seemed to have been constructed for no especial use within itself, but formed merely the interval between two of the colossal supports of the roof of the staff office, and was backed by one of their circumscribing walls of drywall.

It was in vain that Henry, uplifting his iPhone, endeavored to pry into the depth of the recess. Its termination the feeble light did not enable us to see.

“Proceed,” I said; “herein is the offer for Coutinho. As for PSG—”

“They’ll never get Neymar and Mbappe in the same window,” interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily forward, while I followed immediately at his heels. In an instant he had reached the extremity of the office, and finding his progress arrested by one of those stupid standing desks everyone says is so good for you, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment more and I had fettered him to the desk. In its surface were two iron staples, distant from each other about two feet, horizontally. From one of these depended a short chain, from the other a padlock. Throwing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a few seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded to resist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back from the recess.

“Pass your hand,” I said, “over the keyboard; you cannot help feeling the pressure from your weirdly, aggressively obsessive fans. Indeed, the memes are very dank. Once more let me implore you to return. No? Then I must positively leave you. But I must first render you all the little attentions in my power.”

“The Coutinho!!” ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from his astonishment.

“True,” I replied; “the Coutinho.”

As I said these words I busied myself among the pile of faxes of which I have before spoken. Throwing them aside, I soon uncovered a quantity of transfer offers and leaks to the Spanish press. With these materials and with the aid of Barcelona’s board, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of the office.

I had scarcely leaked the first offer to AS Sport when I discovered that the intoxication of Henry had in a great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man. There was then a long and obstinate silence.

I tendered the second offer, and the third, and the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labors and sat down upon the ergonomic office chair. When at last the rancor subsided, I resumed the trowel, and finished without interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh offer. The player was now very unsettled and agitating for the move.

A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back. For a brief moment I hesitated. I reapproached the wall; I replied to the yells of him who clamored. I Retweeted, I leaked, I surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the clamorer grew still.

It was now midnight on Transfer Deadline Day, and my task was drawing to a close. But now there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head. It was succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of the noble Henry. The voice said—

“Ha! ha! ha! —he! he! he! —a very good joke, indeed —an excellent jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it at Soccerex —he! he! he! —over our leadership panels —he! he! he!”

“The Coutinho!” I said.

“He! he! he! —he! he! he! —yes, the Coutinho. But is it not getting late? Will not they be awaiting us at the press conference, the Mrs. Henry and the rest? Let us be gone.”

“Yes,” I said, “let us be gone.”

“For the love of God, Segura!”

“Yes,” I said, “for the love of God!”

But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew impatient. I called aloud—

“Henry!”

No answer. I called again—

“Henry!”

No answer still. There came forth in return only some postmortems and that article in The Independent. My heart grew sick; it was the hyperbole of the silly season that made it so. I hastened to make an end of my labor. I forced the last narrative into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new Champions League season I re-erected the old rampart of players at or past their prime. We didn’t get Coutinho, but Liverpool won’t get much use out of him either.

In pace requiescat Més que un club!


Follow James on Twitter @thaumatropia

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