Souness: Liverpool should have sold Coutinho to Barcelona

Liverpool should have sold playmaker Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, according to club legend Graham Souness.

The Reds turned down three bids from Barca this summer, even after the 25-year-old playmaker submitted a transfer request.

Reds 10/1 for PL title

Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group were adamant about keeping the Brazilian, turning down a £114 million offer and releasing a statement that said: “The club’s definitive stance is that no offers for Philippe will be considered.”

But Souness, a former Liverpool midfielder and manager, has questioned the kind of attitude Coutinho will have for Jurgen Klopp’s side following such a high-profile transfer saga.

“Going forward, what sort of Coutinho is Jurgen Klopp going to have around the place?” Souness wrote in The Sunday Times.

“There will be some players in the dressing-room who are not terribly happy with him and everyone will be keeping a close eye on him.

“Will he still be the same committed Coutinho from past seasons? Only he can answer that.

“I would have accepted an offer in excess of £100m for him.”

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Coutinho, who has not yet appeared for Liverpool this season, is currently with Brazil ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Colombia.

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Barcelona will struggle without Neymar and Real Madrid have a stronger squad, says Mendieta

The departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain has left Barcelona playing catch-up with Real Madrid in La Liga, according to Gaizka Mendieta.

PSG met Neymar’s €222million release clause last month to secure the Brazilian’s services on a five-year contract, breaking up Barca’s fabled attacking trident that also included Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Barca 13/2 to win the Champions League

Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho were both heavily linked with switches to Camp Nou to replace Neymar, the former eventually agreeing a move from Borussia Dortmund.

Despite Dembele’s arrival, Mendieta feels the current campaign will be a tough challenge for the Blaugrana given the loss of Neymar, and says their squad does not have the same strength in depth as their fierce rivals from the capital.

“It’s a big loss for the club, because we know how much Neymar brought into the team with the skills and the talent that he has,” said Mendieta.

“It’s difficult to replace him. Whether they could’ve got any other player, it’s always going to be difficult.

“Barca is Barca, they always have to fight for titles and this year is going to be no different because Real Madrid at the moment is kind of on top. 

“It seems they’ve got a deeper squad, a stronger squad than Barca. But you always have to be there, try to make it difficult for them and try to win as many trophies as possible.”

Another bid for Coutinho ahead of next season has been mooted by some, but Mendieta says Barca’s interest may depend on how the playmaker performs for Liverpool in 2017-18.

“I think, obviously it’s something the player would’ve been happy to have happened and obviously Barca wanted it to happen as well,” he added. 

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“But next season is going to be completely different. It depends what happens this season, depends what happens with many factors we don’t know today. So, we’ll have to wait and see.”

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‘We still have a really good player’ – Klopp delighted at Coutinho stay

Jurgen Klopp has declared Liverpool still have “a really good player” after retaining Philippe Coutinho and did not want to compare his situation with Ousmane Dembele’s, who forced through a move to Barcelona.

Coutinho spent much of the summer embroiled in a drawn out saga that saw him hand in a transfer request in hope of moving to Barca as part of the Catalan club’s plans to replace Neymar.

Liverpool 18/1 to win Champions League

However, Liverpool declared Coutinho was not for sale, and resisted all attempts by the Liga giants to pressure the club into a deal.

Meanwhile, Barcelona did manage to secure the services of Dembele from Dortmund, after spending €105 million plus add ons which could make it the third most expensive transfer of all time.

While Klopp talked about the two situations, he hesitated to compare them and levied a criticism of the media in the process, suggesting they reported on the saga without having all the facts.

HD Phil Coutinho Jurgen Klopp

“We have our situation and Dortmund has another,” Klopp told SPORT1 .

“Don’t believe everything in the press or that there are offers here and there and that the minute after the offer has been entered, it should already be over.

“We are not like George Orwell where everybody knows everything immediately. We have exactly the situation we wanted and no other.”

Klopp declared the situations different, and noted Liverpool still had Coutinho, paying the player a compliment in the process.

“Dortmund decided [Dembele] would leave them, so I cannot compare the two situations.

“We still have a really good player in the squad who can play.”

Coutinho has been sidelined since pre-season with a back injury and illness though he came off the bench to score for Brazil in their 2-0 victory over Ecuador in World Cup qualifying.

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Liverpool is next in action on Saturday against Manchester City, then faces Sevilla in the Champions League Wednesday before a battle against Burnley the following Saturday.

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Luis Garcia: Coutinho stay crucial for Liverpool

Former Liverpool star Luis Garcia believes keeping Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho at the club was vital for the Premier League side.

Coutinho, 25, was a major target for the La Liga giants during the transfer window, but Liverpool stood firm to keep the Brazil international.

Liverpool 14/1 to beat Man City 1-0

Garcia, who won a Champions League with Liverpool, talked up the significance of holding onto Coutinho amid Barcelona’s interest.

“Of course everybody would like to have Coutinho in their team because for the last two or three years he has been showing how important he is for Liverpool,” the Spaniard said on Saturday.

“Many, many teams have been interested in signing him so, for Liverpool, I think it was very important for them to keep him.

“If they want to be competitive in this difficult Premier League they need to keep all of their important players.”

Even without Coutinho, Jurgen Klopp’s men have made a bright start to the Premier League season, claiming seven points from three games to be second in the table.

New signing Mohamed Salah has impressed, scoring three goals in five games in all competitions.

“The add of Salah was important,” Garcia said. “I think we’ve seen he has fit very well into the team and scored a few goals and he is showing he is fantastic with the other players.

“I think they are pretty happy but again it depends on their future results but they have had a fantastic pre-season and it looks like a bright future.”

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Liverpool’s first game after the international break is a blockbuster clash against Manchester City on Saturday.

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Liverpool demanded €200m for Coutinho, claims Barcelona director

Liverpool demanded €200 million for Philippe Coutinho when Barcelona made a deadline day bid to sign the Brazil forward, according to director Albert Soler.

Barca had made Coutinho one of their top targets after Paris Saint-Germain triggered Neymar’s  €222m release clause to prise the forward away from the Catalan giants.

Barca 13/2 to be Kings of Europe

But Liverpool rejected a series of bids despite Coutinho reportedly making a transfer request in order to force through a move to Camp Nou.

Coutinho has not played for Liverpool all season due to injury and illness, but he came off the bench and scored in Brazil’s World Cup qualifying win over Ecuador on Thursday.

Barcelona subsequently made a late attempt to sign the 25-year-old before the transfer window closed only for Liverpool to request a whopping €200m.

“After weeks of negotiations, yesterday Liverpool asked us for €200m for the player,” Soler told a news conference on Saturday. “We will not put the club at risk.

“We have always worked with the mission not to put at risk the heritage and the viability of the club which is owned by the members.

“The fact that PSG came up with €222m [for Neymar] caused everyone to know that the club had money. When you go to the market and clubs know that you have a lot of money, the requests were exorbitant.”

Barcelona technical director Robert Fernandez claimed Coutinho made a “big effort” to try to engineer a switch to Camp Nou.

“Liverpool were asking for €200m so logically we didn’t accept that,” he said.

“We thank the player, he made a big effort to come here and showed that he wanted to play for us, but the situation ended the way it did and there was nothing else we could do.”

Barcelona were able to land France international Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund in an initial €105m deal, but Paulinho and Nelson Semedo were the only other major arrivals in an underwhelming transfer window for Ernesto Valverde’s side.

A reported last-minute move for Argentina star Angel Di Maria failed but Fernandez denied the club is disappointed with their business overall, although he accepted the winger’s PSG team-mate Marco Verratti was a target.

“Barcelona have an excellent team and the signings are going to contribute a lot,” Fernandez said. “We have been planning the transfers for a long time. We have chosen high level players that will help us. We have a very good team, the team will help us compete.

“Last night we worked on the possibility of doing some deals and it was not possible. We have to work and look for solutions. We have to think about the future.

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“I personally talked to [PSG head coach Unai] Emery and he knows very well that Verratti is the player we wanted.”

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Coutinho mess a fitting end to Barca’s shambolic summer as Real remain stronger


COMMENT


Transfer deadline day came and went for Barcelona. The Blaugrana had seemed certain to bring in at least one more forward before the end of the window, but their pursuit of Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho was a mess in the end – and it sums up a shambolic summer for the Catalan club.

Barca were rocked by the departure of Neymar at the beginning of August, when the Brazil forward moved to Paris Saint-Germain for €222 million. Nevertheless, there was still time to strengthen the squad and straight away the plan was clear: not one signing, but two – Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho.

Unfortunately for Barca, everyone in Europe knew about the €222m burning a hole in their pockets and Neymar’s move served only to further inflate prices in an already overpriced market.

At the beginning of the summer, Borussia Dortmund had wanted €90m for Dembele. Realistically, however, the German club would have settled for far less than that for the French forward. That was until they realised Barca were desperate – and flushed with cash. Kerching!

Ousmane Dembele Barcelona 2017

Dembele ultimately left for an initial fee of €105m which alone makes him the world’s second-most expensive footballer. On top of that, though, Barca agreed to pay up to €42m in variables and €33m of that is almost guaranteed in clauses such as the player making 50 appearances for the Catalan club (which he should manage in one season) and the Blaugrana qualifying for the Champions League in the next five seasons (which they have done every year since 2004).

Having sealed the Dembele deal, Barca turned their attentions to Coutinho. But Liverpool had said all summer long that the Brazil midfielder was not for sale and despite assertions from the Catalan media that he would arrive, nobody in England expected him to move.

If Barca knew that, then why did they keep pursuing Phil? Had they learned nothing from the energy wasted in chasing Marco Verratti earlier in the summer? Verratti wanted to join Barcelona and so too did Coutinho, but their teams shut the door and Barca’s inability to secure either transfer is a damning indictment on the Catalan club in the current state.

Worst of all is the notion that perhaps they did not actually try that hard. Why did they waste so much time when the answer was “no”? Why were no other targets sought out until the penultimate day of the window? Moves for Juventus’ Paulo Dybala and Monaco’s Thomas Lemar were reported, but such transfers take time.

It was either incompetence or unwillingness to spend on a second star signing following Neymar’s move. Whatever it was, it has left a sour taste for fans as the Barca board face a censure motion brought about by former presidential candidate Agusti Benedito.

Neymar PSG

Dani Ceballos Real Madrid

Dembele, at least, looks like an excellent player who should shine for many years to come at Camp Nou. The France forward is only 20 and should go straight into this team after Neymar’s exit.

Of the other new signings, Nelson Semedo seems like a shrewd addition at right-back, but Gerard Deulofeu (who returned from Everton in a buy-back deal) is still making the same mistakes that have halted his development for so long and Paulinho is a bizarre choice in midfield – especially at the age of 29 and for €40m.

“Barca have signed players that don’t fit into the system,” Xavi said in an interview with Marca this week. However, it is difficult to know what the side’s system is these days, with current coach Ernesto Valverde having ultilised a number of different formations already and previous Barca boss Luis Enrique relying heavily upon the team’s trident instead of midfield excellence in recent seasons.

In the meantime, Barca missed out on both Dani Ceballos and Theo Hernandez to Real Madrid this summer and Zinedine Zidane’s side, despite the departures of James Rodriguez to Bayern Munich and Alvaro Morata to Chelsea, still look like the team to beat.

Madrid could have done with signing another striker as back-up to Karim Benzema after Morata’s exit, while the injury to youngster Jesus Vallejo has left them somewhat short in defence after Pepe left for Besiktas.

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However, Los Blancos’ squad is still tremendous and after Barca’s summer of discontent and Atletico’s transfer ban (which included failure to bring back Diego Costa in time for January), the Spanish and European champions appear well placed to dominate again – both at home and on the continent.

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Coutinho shines in new role and five lessons from Brazil’s win over Ecuador

The Liverpool playmaker was the best player on the pitch from a more withdrawn role, while Neymar slipped back into bad habits against the Tricolor

Just as in Tite’s very first game as Brazil coach, the Selecao proved too strong for Ecuador as they continued their relentless match towards the 2018 World Cup. Neymar and his men defeated Ecuador 2-0 in a game that was always under control, even if the goals took their time in arriving. 

Now not only have Brazil already secured their place at Russia, but with nine straight qualifying wins they are guaranteed to finish top of the pile amongst their South American peers. 


READ MORE: 
Coutinho fit for Brazil | 5 great Brazil-Ecuador clashes | Brazil’s WCQ campaign so far


Tite came up against a determined Ecuador side, that gave little away early on. But the coach mixed up his side, changed his tactics and Philippe Coutinho pulled through to inspire the Brazilian victory, also scoring the second goal of the evening. The other strike came from Paulinho, the new-found goal machine of this Selecao. 

Brasil Global Tour takes you through the key lessons from Thursday’s battling win…


COUTINHO, NEW POSITION BUT SAME OLD BRILLIANCE


Willian Coutinho Brazil Ecuador Eliminatorias 2018 31082017

Tite had made it clear that he wanted Philippe Coutinho to play in a different role when he pulled on the Brazil shirt. In the friendlies against Argentina and Australia the coach took the opportunity to try the Liverpool man in a more withdrawn position, the role usually played by Renato Augusto. And while his future might not be certain on the other side of the world, here Coutinho looked supremely comfortable pulling the strings for his nation.

Coutinho managed to turn the course of the game, moving with freedom and creating space and play wherever he set foot. A stunning goal following neat interplay with Gabriel Jesus was richly deserved, and put Brazil out of sight against Ecuador at 2-0 up. Whether he plays in Liverpool or Barcelona this season, he will remain indispensable for Brazil.


NEYMAR AGAINST THE WORLD


Neymar Brazil Ecuador Eliminatorias 2018 31082017

Ever since Tite took the reins of the Selecao, Neymar has tempered his individualist instincts to become much more of a team player. Thursday’s game, however, the first since his world-record move to PSG, saw the most expensive player in the world suffer a relapse into his selfish ways. Neymar held onto the ball to long against Ecuador and looked to go it alone in the opposition area, overlooking Luan in a golden chance in favour of trying for goal himself. It was an off-night for the No. 10, who has been fantastic for his nation since teaming up with Tite.


FROM 4-1-4-1 TO 4-2-3-1


Philippe Coutinho Paulinho Brazil Ecuador Eliminatorias 2018 31082017

With the same team picked a year ago in his Selecao debut, Tite opted for the same formation, which has helped Brazil guarantee their place at the next World Cup. This time around it did not work as planned, but the coach proved he has a trick or two up his sleeve. For the second half, seeing that play was not flowing, Tite switched from 4-1-4-1 to 4-2-3-1 and changed Brazil’s fortunes. The spaces suddenly opened up and yet another victory was on the way for the unbeatable Selecao.


ANOTHER RECORD


Brazil Ecuador Eliminatorias 2018 31082017

Ever since the coach took over the bruised Selecao from Dunga, they have been setting records with impressive consistency. Thursday was no exception. With three games to go in these qualifiers, the already-qualified Brazil have recorded their best campaign in the history of the competition. The team now sit on 36 points, beating the 34 set in 2006 and 2010. They are also the only team to have managed nine straight victories in CONMEBOL qualifiers.


PAULINHO THE GOAL MACHINE


Paulinho Brazil Ecuador Eliminatorias 2018 31082017

Not even the lengthy break in qualifying was capable of slowing down Paulinho in front of goal. The new Barcelona signing hit his 10th in Brazil colours and cemented his position as the highest-scoring defensive midfielder in Canarinho history. When Brazil most needed him, he was there to turn home a corner and open up the game in his side’s favour.

Paulinho returned to the Brazil ranks exactly a year ago, and has been unstoppable – hitting five goals and adding another three assists in just 10 games to make himself an undisputed part of the Selecao.

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Neymar reveals Coutinho’s ‘anguish’ as Liverpool refuse to sanction Barcelona transfer

Philippe Coutinho is struggling to come to terms with the “sadness” of Liverpool refusing his transfer to Barcelona, according to Brazil team-mate Neymar.

The Reds star was keen to move to Camp Nou,  handing in a transfer request in August ahead of the Premier League season beginning in order to try and force the situation.

Barcelona remain determined to add Coutinho to their squad but Liverpool have no intention in selling the 25-year-old, despite him making it clear to those at the club that he wants to leave.

Blaugrana 4/5 to beat Juve

Coutinho missed Liverpool’s 4-0 victory over Arsenal last weekend due to a back problem but featured as a substitute in Brazil’s 2-0 win over Ecuador on Thursday, scoring his country’s second of the evening.

According to Neymar, who left Barcelona in a world record €222 million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain last month, suggested that Coutinho was unable to enjoy the occasion.

“Unfortunately, instead of being a happy time for him [Coutinho], for his family, it’s a moment of anguish, disappointment and sadness,” Neymar told ESPN FC.

“I like to see him happy because he is a team-mate and a friend that I’ve had for a long time.

“He was rewarded with a goal today, for his and our joy.”

Brazil coach Tite also spoke of Coutinho’s struggles following the World Cup qualifying win and the speculation surrounding the 25-year-old’s future, adding: “Of course it affects him.”

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Coutinho remains under contract at Anfield until 2022.

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Brazil 2 Ecuador 0: Barca target Coutinho and Paulinho inspire win

Philippe Coutinho and potential Barcelona team-mate Paulinho inspired Brazil to victory over Ecuador in Porto Alegre.

Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho came off the bench and scored as Brazil defeated Ecuador 2-0 to seal their position as winners of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying section.

Coutinho was named on the bench for Thursday’s qualifier in Porto Alegre having not played for Liverpool this season due to a back problem and illness amid ongoing speculation linking him with Barca.

But the Liverpool star put uncertainty surrounding his future aside to double Brazil’s lead with 14 minutes remaining after a stunning one-two with team-mate Gabriel Jesus.

It was a sight to excite Barca fans after new signing Paulinho broke Ecuador’s stubborn resistance seven minutes earlier – his fourth goal in four internationals.

Already assured of their spot at the World Cup in Russia next year, Brazil cannot be caught atop the South American standings after moving 11 points clear of second-placed Colombia with three games remaining, while Ecuador are seventh and three points adrift of the play-off position.

There were no surprises in Brazil’s starting XI following their 4-0 friendly rout of Australia in June as the world’s most expensive player Neymar headlined Tite’s line-up, which also included Jesus, Willian, Casemiro, Marcelo and Dani Alves, who did not play in March’s 3-0 qualifying win at home to Paraguay.

Ecuador – who lost 2-0 to Colombia in their most recent qualifier – named the likes of Antonio Valencia, Enner Valencia, Christian Noboa and Gabriel Achilier.

The first half did not reach any real heights as Brazil – devoid of ideas and synergy – struggled against a resolute Ecuador side.

Barcelona recruit Paulinho tried his luck early, while Chelsea attacker Willian went close inside 10 minutes.

Manchester City star Jesus almost opened the scoring just past the half-hour mark after outmuscling his opponent en route to goal but Ecuador goalkeeper Maximo Banguera was up to the task, using a strong hand to push the ball away for a corner.

Jesus came close again 11 minutes into the second half after being picked out by Alves with a sublime cross but his close-range header was saved.

The 20-year-old forward was thwarted minutes later as Ecuador defender Robert Arboleda glanced a header away before Jesus could head home the opener.

Seeking a goal, Tite introduced Coutinho before the hour-mark – his first playing time of the 2017-18 season – but it was his potential Barca team-mate Paulinho who broke the deadlock.

Paulinho lashed home the opener from just outside the six-yard box with 20 minutes remaining following Willian’s corner.

Brazil could smell blood as Banguera denied Willian and Neymar with back-to-back saves only moments later.

But Banguera was unable to deny Coutinho, who combined with Jesus before side-footing into the net in the 76th minute.

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Brazil coach tells Coutinho to choose happiness amid Barcelona pursuit

Brazil coach Tite has told Philippe Coutinho to go where he will be happy amid Barcelona’s ongoing interest in the Liverpool attacker.

Coutinho continues to be heavily linked with a move to Spanish giants Barca ahead of Thursday’s transfer deadline in the Premier League, though La Liga clubs have an extra day to complete their business.

Brazil 13/2 to win World Cup

The Brazil international – subject of three failed bids from Barcelona after handing in a transfer request – is yet to feature for Liverpool this season due to a back injury and illness.

As Coutinho and CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying leaders Brazil prepare to face Ecuador on Thursday, head coach Tite provided an update on the attacking midfielder.

“I can’t assess Coutinho in financial terms,” Tite told reporters. “My thing is in the pitch, that’s my concern. We have different realities.

HD Phil Coutinho

“But I’ve talked to Coutinho, told him the same I’ve told you: go where you feel happy. If it’s Liverpool, I’ll be ok. If it’s another one, I’ll be ok.

“I have to know my limits. I don’t have to have opinion about everything. I don’t want to be a showman, to be talking about everything. I’m very discreet in this kind of things. And fair. And justice is that he can be happy.

“I don’t know which club he’s going to. He’ll decide it. But the Brazilian squad won’t lose him.”

The 25-year-old is in line to feature in Brazil’s qualifiers against Ecuador and Colombia, despite his lack of playing time at Liverpool.

Back problems and a bout of illness are behind Coutinho’s Liverpool absence, though his doctor in Brazil contradicted this by claiming the player was suffering from stress brought about by uncertainty over his future.

Talking about Coutinho’s fitness, Tite said: “Coutinho was called up with 15 days of anticipation. We were aware that we are in a transfer window with all the chances of changes coming in. I have to pay attention to it.

“That’s a reality because it touches the emotional side, the player’s life, the routine of the clubs. And, at the same time, we have to look at the essence of the Brazil squad.

A player with the level and the quality of Philippe Coutinho, fit at that moment, had to be called. He had a problem. And the dimension of this injury, to know that our basis was the moment in which he arrived to the Brazilian squad. I have this responsibility of telling you this.

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“And the medical department made an assessment, a transition work, a contact from physician to physician from Liverpool, from staff to staff, I didn’t do that because I don’t speak English but we made it, so that we wouldn’t put a player at risk but also don’t lose him. Don’t lose a player with the level of Coutinho. He stays as an option.”

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