Ferguson feels sympathy for Liverpool over Coutinho saga

Alex Ferguson has offered sympathy to old rivals Liverpool over the Philippe Coutinho transfer saga.

Coutinho has not featured for Liverpool competitively this season and handed in a transfer request in an attempt to force through a switch to Barcelona, although the Reds have rejected three bids for the playmaker – the latest coming in at £119million.

The 25-year-old is in line to feature in Brazil’s World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Colombia over the coming week despite officially being ruled out of action for his club due to a back injury and a bout of illness.

Coutinho’s doctor in Brazil contradicted this by claiming the player was suffering from stress brought about by uncertainty over his future.

Following a transfer window where the likes of Neymar and Ousmane Dembele have secured mega money moves away from clubs where they were under long-term contracts, and with intrigue over the futures of stars such as Alexis Sanchez and Virgil van Dijk set to dominate Thursday’s deadline day, former Manchester United boss Ferguson believes firm management of key players is more important than ever.

“I think strong management is crucial in this situation. Part of your job as a coach also is to educate your players’ character so they have a responsibility to what they’re doing,” Ferguson said, speaking at the UEFA Elite Coaches Forum in Nyon.

“Obviously, in some cases, that is changing a bit. It’s disappointing because I’m sure that, in the case of Liverpool, they did a very good job in making Coutinho the player he is today.

“So, it’s a bit disappointing but you have to deal with it and the transfer window doesn’t help in that situation.

“If it closed in July, Coutinho would have continued playing and it would have been gone. The matter would have been over.

“The recommendation we look at is to close the window before the season starts, so everyone knows which players they’ve got and aren’t waiting to see what the first results are going to be.”

One manager who has certainly impressed Ferguson with his strength of leadership is current United manager Jose Mourinho.

The former Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid boss collected the EFL Cup and Europa League during his first season at Old Trafford and Ferguson was particularly impressed by his focus during the gruelling slog of the latter competition, with Champions League qualification up for grabs.

“I think that the Europa League has taken on arms and legs since they made the decision to let the winner enter the Champions League,” he said.

“Jose seized on that and he was playing his best team in every round, right from the start. He deserved to win it because his attitude was first class.

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“Once Jose realised he wasn’t going to win the league back home in England, his intent of winning the Europa League became greater and greater as each round came along. That was a great achievement.”

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Stress behind Coutinho’s Liverpool absence, doctor claims

Philippe Coutinho’s early season absence at Liverpool was down to stress amid speculation over a big-money move to Barcelona, according to the player’s doctor in Brazil.

Coutinho has not featured for Liverpool competitively this term and handed in a transfer request in an attempt to force through a switch to Camp Nou, although Liverpool are understood to have rejected three bids for the playmaker – the latest coming in at £119 million.

Liverpool 10/1 to win PL

The official reason for the 25-year-old’s absence was a back injury initially, before illness kept him away from last week’s resounding victories over Hoffenheim and Arsenal.

Coutinho still joined up with Brazil’s national team for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Colombia on August 31 and September 5 respectively and trained separately from his team-mates on Monday.

Amid reports in Brazil that he will be ready to play, Michael Simoni – Fluminense’s medical director – spoke to the midfielder and concluded his long-time friend was suffering with an “emotional issue manifesting itself as back pain”.

HD Phil Coutinho

“Coutinho’s back problem? He is okay now. The back problem was a matter of stress, it was something emotional,” Simoni told Esporte after meeting with Coutinho in Rio.

“The uncertainty about his future led him to feeling stressed. Everything is solved now.

“Coutinho and I have been friends for years. I always treat his medical cases. All he needed was someone to give him a pep talk.”

Speaking at the presentation of club-record signing Ousmane Dembele on Monday, Barcelona technical secretary Robert Fernandez said the club hoped to make another signing this week, further stoking speculation over Coutinho.

“He’s a bit anxious about the possibility of changing club,” Simoni said in a separate interview with ESPN Brasil. “Of course, we talked about this possible transfer, about the things that are in his heart right now.

“His back pains, in my opinion, are explained by this anxiety. Muscular tension normally does that.

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“He can show up to train normally. I didn’t do a clinical exam, he came to chat, he came to talk to a friend.”

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WATCH: Philippe Coutinho fit for Brazil’s World Cup qualifiers

The Liverpool man appears to have recovered from injury, leaving the Selecao able to select from their original 23 for the first time in the campaign

Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho is expected to be fit for Brazil’s World Cup qualifiers this week, ensuring coach Tite has his full quota of 23 players available.

Coutinho is yet to make an appearance for his club side this season, left out of the squad with a back injury after his future was left up in the air following a number of bids from Spanish club Barcelona.


READ MORE: 
Brazil top FIFA rankings  | Brazilians making transfer moves | Brazil’s WCQ campaign so far


Coach Jurgen Klopp said last week that he expected Coutinho to join up with the Brazil squad in Porto Alegre this week, citing FIFA regulations that confederation medical staff have the right to assess the fitness of those called up to represent their country.

A number of the Brazil squad have already arrived in Porto Alegre ahead of Thursday’s clash with Ecuador, and a fit Coutinho is expected to join them shortly.

It will mark the first occasion during Brazil’s qualifying campaign for Russia 2018 that no member of the original 23-man squad was forced to pull out through injury.

Tite e jogadores Brasil treino 21032017

Seven squads have been assembled for qualifiers since the tournament began – three were named by former coach Dunga, while four were selected by Tite – and on every occasion a late replacement was required.

Tite has led the Selecao to an unprecedented eight consecutive victories in World Cup qualifying since his June 2016 appointment.

Brazil host Ecuador on Thursday August 31 before travelling to Barranquilla to face Colombia on Tuesday September 5.

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Philippe Coutinho fit for Brazil’s World Cup qualifiers

The Liverpool man appears to have recovered from injury, leaving the Selecao able to select from their original 23 for the first time in the campaign

Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho is expected to be fit for Brazil’s World Cup qualifiers this week, ensuring coach Tite has his full quota of 23 players available.

Coutinho is yet to make an appearance for his club side this season, left out of the squad with a back injury after his future was left up in the air following a number of bids from Spanish club Barcelona.


READ MORE: 
Brazil top FIFA rankings  | Brazilians making transfer moves | Brazil’s WCQ campaign so far


Coach Jurgen Klopp said last week that he expected Coutinho to join up with the Brazil squad in Porto Alegre this week, citing FIFA regulations that confederation medical staff have the right to assess the fitness of those called up to represent their country.

A number of the Brazil squad have already arrived in Porto Alegre ahead of Thursday’s clash with Ecuador, and a fit Coutinho is expected to join them shortly.

It will mark the first occasion during Brazil’s qualifying campaign for Russia 2018 that no member of the original 23-man squad was forced to pull out through injury.

Tite e jogadores Brasil treino 21032017

Seven squads have been assembled for qualifiers since the tournament began – three were named by former coach Dunga, while four were selected by Tite – and on every occasion a late replacement was required.

Tite has led the Selecao to an unprecedented eight consecutive victories in World Cup qualifying since his June 2016 appointment.

Brazil host Ecuador on Thursday August 31 before travelling to Barranquilla to face Colombia on Tuesday September 5.

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What transfers could still happen before end of transfer window?

The 2017 summer transfer window has already seen a number of big-money moves, but there is room for more business before the transfer windows shut across Europe.

Brazilian sensation Neymar made a historic €222 million move to Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona and the Catalan outfit subsequently forked out €105m to Borussia Dortmund for the services of Ousmane Dembele.

With the transfer window set to close in a number of countries, Goal takes a look at the deals that could yet be sealed before Thursday’s deadline.


DIEGO COSTA


Diego Costa Chelsea

Diego Costa’s protracted exit from Chelsea sees the Spain international in exile in his native Brazil, refusing to set foot in London again. The striker is dead set on a return to Atletico Madrid and has been highly critical of his perceived treatment by Antonio Conte and the Blues.

While Costa is angling for a move to Atletico, he has plenty of admirers across Europe, with AC Milan among the list of suitors and Everton have also emerged as a possible – temporary – destination.


PHILIPPE COUTINHO


HD Phil Coutinho

Ever since Neymar’s move to PSG, Barcelona have intensified their focus on a number of new recruits and Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho is one of their main targets.

The La Liga outfit have had their efforts to land the Brazil international rebuffed and, despite the fact that Coutinho has made his desire to leave Anfield clear, he is no closer to a move to Catalunya.

Liverpool remain steadfast in their refusal to let the midfielder go, but Barca could theoretically change the Premier League club’s mind with the right offer, which would surely be well over the €100m mark.


KYLIAN MBAPPE


Kylian Mbappe Monaco 2017

After a sensational breakthrough season last year, Kylian Mbappe has earned plenty of admirers and he looks likely to leave Monaco in the coming days.

Paris Saint-Germain are among the frontrunners for Mbappe’s signature, with a number of the capital club’s players talking up the notion of a move, but the 18-year-old is also on the radar of a clutch of top European clubs.

Manchester City are keen and Zinedine Zidane made no secret of his desire to bring his compatriot to the Santiago Bernabeu. However, France boss Didier Deschamps has let slip that the teenager will move to another Ligue 1 club.


SERGE AURIER


Serge Aurier Angers PSG Coupe de France 27052017

Of all the teams challenging for Premier League glory, Tottenham have been the least active in the transfer market, but they have been heavily linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain’s Serge Aurier.

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has dismissed the idea of Aurier joining his side as a rumour, but the Argentine coach is definitely on the look-out for a right-back after losing Kyle Walker in a big-money move to Manchester City.

Ivory Coast international Aurier is also on the radar of Manchester United, but, with Jose Mourinho’s side off to a flying start, talk of a move to north London has been intensifying ahead of the transfer deadline.


ALEXIS SANCHEZ


Sergio Aguero Alexis Sanchez September 2014

Alexis Sanchez looks destined to leave Arsenal and, if he does not make his exit during this transfer window, the Chile international could potentially depart on a free transfer at the end of the season.

Sanchez has been linked with Bayern Munich, with Carlo Ancelotti admitting that he is a fan of the 28-year-old, but Manchester City appear to be a more likely destination for the former Barcelona forward.

Arsene Wenger has stressed that Sanchez wants to remain with the Gunners, but a reunion with Pep Guardiola is something that has certainly been on the agenda.


THOMAS LEMAR


Thomas Lemar Monaco

Monaco have been forced to deal with an exodus this summer, with the likes of Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva and Tiemoue Bakayoko all leaving the club for the Premier League. And the upheaval has not concluded either, with speculation still swirling around a number of their stars.

Thomas Lemar has been heavily linked with Arsenal and Manchester United, but Liverpool are closer to completing the signing. The Gunners had a €35m bid rejected, and the Reds have doubled that offer.

Indeed, with Arsene Wenger conceding that his club’s pursuit of the 21-year-old is over, the Reds are well primed to secure his services before the closure of the transfer window. 


DANNY DRINKWATER


Danny Drinkwater Leicester City

Chelsea are attempting to defend their Premier League crown without two players who played key roles in winning the title, with Nemanja Matic joining Manchester United and Diego Costa on the verge of a move to Atletico Madrid.

The Blues have already added reinforcements in the form of Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko, but Antonio Conte is eyeing up more additions as he looks to defend the title. Leicester City midfielder Danny Drinkwater is one of those potential recruits and a move could be completed ahead of the closure of the transfer window.


JONNY EVANS


Jonny Evans West Brom

Pep Guardiola has already added Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy to his Manchester City squad, but the Catalan is still keen to bring in more defensive reinforcements.

West Brom captain – and former Manchester United defender – Jonny Evans is one particular target and, while the Baggies have rejected a bid from City for the 29-year-old, a move could yet materialise.

Tony Pulis has indicated that Evans is likely to stay at The Hawthorns and it remains to be seen whether the top brass at the Etihad are willing to sanction a bigger bid for the Northern Ireland international, but there is enough time for a deal to be struck that works for all parties.


VIRGIL VAN DIJK


Virgil van Dijk Southampton

Liverpool’s pursuit of Virgil van Dijk has resulted in a stand-off between the Dutch defender and his club Southampton, but a transfer could possibly occur before the summer transfer window shuts.

The Netherlands international has been vocal about his unhappiness with the manner in which the Saints have dealt with the proposed move, handing in a transfer request, but his new boss Mauricio Pellegrino says that he expects the 26-year-old to stay at St Mary’s.

Jurgen Klopp is also dealing with a want-away player in Philippe Coutinho, so he can perhaps sympathise with Southampton’s position, but the Reds have not given up all hope of coaxing Van Dijk away from the Saints.


ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN


Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Arsenal

As well as Leicester’s Danny Drinkwater, Chelsea are keen to bring Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Stamford Bridge from rivals Arsenal as they look to defend their Premier League crown.

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The Blues will have to pay between £35m and £40m to the Gunners if they want to land the England international, who would provide competition for Victor Moses and versatility in midfield.

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Barcelona still trying to force through Coutinho deal

Barcelona technical secretary Robert Fernandez has insisted that the club are still working on a deal for Philippe Coutinho but has ruled out signing Jean Seri.

Barca 13/2 for CL glory

The Liverpool midfielder has been on Barca’s radar throughout the summer, with the sale of Neymar to PSG accelerating their pursuit of the Brazil international.

The Reds have stood firm with their stance that their star man would not be sold, however, with Goal revealing on August 23 that they would again rebuff a potential fourth bid from the Catalans for the 25-year-old.

Indeed, Liverpool’s owners released a statement insisting that Coutinho would not be sold although that isn’t stopping the Liga giants from continuing their efforts to sign the former Inter man.

When asked about the club’s pursuit of Coutinho, Robert Fernandez told reporters: “We are negotiating with some players about the possibility of incorporating them into the team and we hope to reach an agreement to introduce a new player.

“We have been working for a long time on possibilities, maybe a player comes or maybe there are two, we have to wait because we are negotiating and we can find ourselves with a favourable framework to bring one more, or maybe two.

“Everyone knows what situation the market is in and what has happened, the teams know what our situation is but the fact that we have moved quickly helps us to reach a favourable situation.

“But without a [release] clause we are forced to into long and tense negotiations and there are times we could not go further. Uneasiness can exist but we know very well what we want and we will wait until the last moment.

“My intention is for another player to arrive, two if possible.”

When asked about the potential of Angel Di Maria joining from PSG, the Barca technical secretary continued: “I will not go into naming but I admit that the club is working on the possibility of bringing in new players.”

Barca had also been looking at signing Nice star Jean Seri although with talks having broken down, Ernesto Valverde’s side will not be looking to take their interest any further.

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Robert Fernandez added: “We hope to present another player this month. Seri is totally ruled out.”

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Liverpool boss Klopp refuses to ‘judge’ Barca over Coutinho chase

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has refused to criticise Barcelona over their ongoing pursuit of Anfield star Philippe Coutinho.

Barca have identified Coutinho as a replacement for Neymar, who completed a world-record €222million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, though their pursuit has been unsuccessful so far.

Premier League title hopefuls Liverpool are believed to have turned down a £119m offer for Coutinho, maintaining the Brazil international is not for sale.

Coutinho is yet to feature this season as uncertainty over his future grows, however Klopp is unfazed with his focus elsewhere.

“To be disappointed about different things, you need to have expectations,” Klopp said. “I don’t have expectations, I don’t think about other clubs to be honest.

Jurgen Klopp Liverpool

“We all have our own problems. If we think we have to do something, we do it. In this moment I would have preferred we finished our business six weeks ago. Let all the rest of the world do what they do. It’s getting more and more different and difficult.

“I don’t judge what other clubs are doing. I am not sure there was one easy day since we started pre-season. Always something changes.

“All the discussions about Phil and then in the same moment Adam Lallana gets injured. It was like ‘what?’ I don’t think anyone can expect that we are prepared for this. The team have handled it all brilliantly so far.”

Get 12/5 on Liverpool win and BTTS v Arsenal

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After qualifying for the Champions League group stage midweek, Liverpool host Arsenal on Sunday.

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Klopp expecting Brazil to check on injured Coutinho’s fitness

Jurgen Klopp expects wantaway star Philippe Coutinho to link up with Brazil for international duty even though he is yet to play for Liverpool this season.

Coutinho has handed in a transfer request at Anfield in the hope of pushing through a move to Barcelona, but the Reds have held firm and insist that the player will not be sold.

Liverpool 23/10 to beat Arsenal

With no conclusion to the saga, Coutinho has yet to feature for Liverpool this season with Klopp maintaining that a back injury is the reason for his continued absence.

Klopp, though, expects Brazil – who have World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Colombia on the horizon – to check up on Coutinho.

“At the moment, [Coutinho] is on our injury list,” Klopp told a pre-match news conference ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Arsenal. “That hasn’t changed.

“I’ve not been in contact so far with the Brazilian FA, but it’s like the rules are – if they want to see him and check him, then of course he has to go there. That’s how it is.

“I don’t know exactly, but I think it will happen, and we have no problem.”

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Welcome back, Liverpool! Mane, Firmino & Salah guarantee goals on Champions League return


 COMMENT


The blue-and-white banners adorned all sections of Anfield, the signage of the same colouring greeted those inside the stadium at every turn, the famed anthem thundered out of the tannoy and Liverpool swaggered into the Champions League group stages.

When their third of the night – a masterful blend of intelligence and style – went in, Jurgen Klopp turned to the Main Stand shouting, “That’s football!”

Firmino 6/5 favourite to score against Arsenal

And this was how it is supposed to be; five-times conquerors of Europe’s premier competition not only restored to their rightful place, but doing it in a manner befitting of magical nights past on this turf – under the lights –  on this stage.

Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, Roberto Firmino, Liverpool

Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane combined to dazzling and devastating effect in the first half, where their combination play effectively laid Hoffenheim’s ambitions to rest.

In 11 minutes, the pair orchestrated three goals, with Emre Can the scorer of two and Mohamed Salah reacting quickest to net the other.

Julian Nagelsmann didn’t want his Hoffenheim side to “hide” at Anfield and instead instructed them to take the game to their hosts, a daring approach but one that ultimately encouraged Liverpool’s greatest strength – their explosive forward line.

By starting so expansively, the Reds were invited to showcase their powers on the counter, and they were obliging.

Inside two minutes, Salah and Mane both had opportunities to affect the scoreline, with the latter denied by Oliver Baumann’s legs after Firmino’s superb ball to create a one-on-one situation for the Senegal star.

HD Mane Firmino Can Liverpool celebrate

That exact, dissecting pass from the Brazilian to the speedster was executed again in the build-up to Liverpool’s opener.

Firmino chested down the ball, read the space and Mane’s movement to feed him and the 25-year-old carried possession on. Having hypnotised Havard Nordtveit and Pavel Kaderabek, he waited for Can’s supporting dart around the outside and reverse flicked to him.

The midfielder’s shot struck Kevin Vogt en route to putting the Reds 1-0 up and 3-1 on aggregate.

Firmino was the creative force again after being slid in by Alberto Moreno. He dribbled into the area, motioning for the byline before pulling a pass back for Gini Wijnaldum.

The Dutchman opened his body and aimed his sidefoot finish for the bottom right, but it cannoned off the base of the post. Salah reacted first to ensure all that good work didn’t go to waste.

143 seconds later, Nagelsmann’s night deteriorated further following a piece of team poetry.

Emre Can

Firmino, stationed deep, passed to Wijnaldum on the left touchline. The midfield directed a divine ball in the vicinity of Mane to run on to and having occupied Benjamin Hubner and Nordtveit, the winger spotted the Brazil international breaking ground to support play.

He backheeled wide for Firmino, who lofted a pass across goal for Can – free at the far post. The German jumped and sidefooted in to prompt a festival atmosphere at Anfield.

Seven minutes later, Liverpool were still too celebratory as they completely switched off and allowed Mark Uth to pull one back after Dejan Lovren’s sloppy clearance. The Croatian wasn’t the only one culpable, though, as the midfield and his fellow defenders were also too passive.

Hoffenheim will reflect on missed chances, with Serge Gnabry in particular guilty of not converting them, but Klopp’s men carved out many more openings that weren’t buried.

“This game was crazy,” Klopp reflected afterwards. “It could have ended 9-7! But even then, we would have been in the group stage.”

HD Mohamed Salah

In the second half, Firmino was finally rewarded for producing a masterclass as captain Jordan Henderson stole possession and unselfishly played him through on 63 minutes.

“What a game he had today! Unbelievable!,” the Reds boss said of his No.9, whose cerebral, effective showing was a delight to witness.

Sandro Wagner headed in Andrej Kramaric’s cross later on, but by then, the tie had been long wrapped up.

Liverpool’s 183rd game in Europe’s chief club tournament wasn’t to be their last for this season, then, as they can now prepare for a 10th campaign in the Champions League group stages.

Despite the constant, unsettling distraction of Philippe Coutinho wanting to leave for Barcelona, the Merseysiders illustrated their focus is on restoring themselves as a continental giant.

Roberto Firmino Jordan Henderson

All of Klopp’s tenure thus far seemed to point to this very juncture, where these “special nights” become the norm.

Liverpool will wake up tomorrow in the draw, in the mix, in the conversation again. “Yippee! I know you will always find a few people who will say ‘It’s just the Champions League or only the Champions League.’ But we wanted to be part of it with all we have, ” Klopp said. 

The German now has a week to ensure their squad is fully equipped with the demands of battling Europe’s best, while continuing to bat away Barca’s approaches for their playmaker.

The result “is big influence on the transfer market, especially if you do it [qualify for the Champions League] more often,” Klopp admitted. 

“I said before the game that if you talk to players – and players better than ours are difficult to find, I know a lot of people think differently, but we do the work and it’s not easy to find 20 top players in each position – they say ‘oh if you play Champions League, it would be really great because the club is good, the manager is not too bad’ and all this stuff.

Jurgen Klopp Mohamed Salah

“Even if you want to extend the contract of a player in the squad they say ‘we want to play Champions League.’  And I always think – ‘WTF?! It’s your job to do it with us together. Don’t ask us to do the job so you can play Champions League.’

“We do it together and that’s what this team did. That’s why I’m so happy about this – 14 months of hard work and we did it – nice!”

The shift has only just began, but there will be several teams wary of and wanting to avoid Liverpool, especially considering their explosiveness in attack.

“When you are in the group stage, then you want to go through and to the last 16,” Klopp said. 

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“You want to go there and to the next round, that’s how it is. A lot of things are possible but not because I say them, just because when we are really ready for all these games. It’s so exciting now to be part of it.”

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Liverpool great Souness ‘would snap Barcelona’s hand off’ for massive Coutinho fee

Former Liverpool captain and manager Graeme Souness believes the club are wrong to reject huge offers from Barcelona for Philippe Coutinho.

The Catalans are preparing to make a fourth bid for the Brazil international in the region of €140 million, having seen all other advances rejected by the Premier League side.

Liverpool 9/1 to finish top north west club

Such a deal would make Coutinho the second most expensive player in history, behind only Neymar, who left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain for €222m this month.

Liverpool insist that they will reject the fourth offer, but Souness has questioned the club’s defiance over Coutinho as he feels Sadio Mane is a much more important player for the team.

“Players normally get their way at the end of the day and with the sort of cash that is being offered now, I’d be snapping their hand off,” Souness, a three-time European Cup-winner as a player at Anfield, told talkSPORT.

HD Phil Coutinho

“That kind of money you can’t say no to. Is he that good? For that sort of money you want a player that is a game-changer, the difference in big games, and I don’t see him as that.

“Yeah, he is an attractive little footballer, he is neat and tidy on the ball, he wrong-foots people, he scores some wonder goals, but at that sort of level I would take the money.

“I don’t see him being a [Luis] Suarez or a Neymar.”

Asked which player he considers to be Liverpool’s most influential, he added: “That would be Sadio Mane.

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“Coutinho is six, seven goals a season. Does he turn up in the real big games? Mane is the man for me.”

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