Philippe Coutinho has already switched allegiances once this season after finally completing that long, drawn-out transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona. Now the midfielder could be set to switch again – this time from sole Brazilian nationality to a dual nationality as Brazilian and Portuguese. Brazilian football fans can relax, though – this does not mean that Coutinho will suddenly be representing Portugal at the forthcoming FIFA World Cup finals.
Coutinho's decision to switch is simply a soft-flouncing of the rules in La Liga that permit clubs to have a maximum of three non-EU players in their squad. Currently, at Barcelona Coutinho is joined as a non-EU player by Brazilian Paulinho and Colombian Yerry Mina.
Football fans with knowledge of Barcelona's team of talents may question why Lionel Messi (Argentina) and Luis Suarez (Uruguay) are not included in that list of non-EU players. Messi already has dual Argentine and Spanish nationality as he has been a resident of Spain since 2001, while Suarez has dual Argentine and Italian nationality as his wife – Sofia Balbi – is Italian.
It is this 'loophole' that Coutinho is seeking to take advantage of, as his own wife – Aine Coutinho – is Portuguese. A person is able to register as Portuguese if they have been married to a Portuguese national for at least three years.
Barcelona are interested in signing the Brazilian defensive midfielder Arthur in the summer, but with all three non-EU places already filled, Arthur would have immediately been forced to go out on loan. Coutinho's dual nationality efforts would enable Arthur to take his place in Barcelona's 2018-19 squad.