Coutinho close to record Barcelona transfer from Liverpool

Barcelona are finalising an offer in excess of €150 million to secure Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool, which would make him the third-most expensive footballer in the world and their record signing.

Only Neymar’s €222m switch from La Liga’s leaders to Paris Saint Germain, and his team-mate Kylian Mbappe’s loan move from Monaco – which becomes permanent ahead of next season for €180m – surpass that figure.

It would also see Coutinho oust Ousmane Dembele – brought in from Borussia Dortmund last August for an initial fee of €105m that could rise to €145m – as the club’s highest-cost recruit.

Barca bloated their three failed bids with unrealistic extras for the Brazil international in the summer, but their base amount now would eclipse the €105m Manchester United paid to Juventus for Paul Pogba in August 2016 by around €15m to set a new British transfer record.

It will be supplemented by €40m in add-ons related to performances and appearances, which are likely to be triggered.

There was a possibility of doing an advanced deal now ahead of 2018-19, but Barca and the 25-year-old are insistent on an immediate transfer.

The Catalan club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu and chief executive Oscar Grau have driven the approach, facilitated through the playmaker’s representatives Kia Joorabchian and Giuliano Bertolucci.

Philippe Coutinho Liverpool

Coutinho – masterful for Liverpool after submitting a transfer request that was rejected in August – has been resolute on furthering his career at Camp Nou after five years of service on Merseyside , which has produced no trophies.

While the Brazilian, scorer of 12 goals and supplier of eight assists in all competitions this campaign, is grateful to the club for helping him develop into a pedigreed performer, he cannot ignore the opportunity of becoming a long-term reference point for Barca.

Liverpool were definitive in their stance that Coutinho was not for sale at any price in the summer, but with their No.10 maintaining his intention to depart and Barca on the verge of tabling an acceptable bid for his services, it seems to now be a matter of when rather than if a deal is done.

Jurgen Klopp Philippe Coutinho Liverpool

Article continues below

There has been a noticeable erosion of the club’s unwillingness to contemplate the virtuoso’s exit , with Jurgen Klopp admitting last month that he had “no desire” to sit through an entire window of speculation again.

Sources close to the player revealed to Goal on Tuesday that the Merseysiders unsuccessfully tried to convince Coutinho to remain at Anfield by proposing multiple incentives and a greater wage packet to their highest earner over the course of the season.

Having made 201 appearances and producing 54 goals for Liverpool after signing from Inter in January 2013 for just £8.5m, he looks set to take the next step in his career.

Let’

Rivaldo backs Barcelona target Coutinho to thrive at Camp Nou

Philippe Coutinho has the characteristics to be a success at Barcelona if he moves to the club from Liverpool, according to fellow Brazilian Rivaldo.

Barca are reported to be preparing a fresh bid worth an initial €110 million for Coutinho, having failed with a number of offers for the midfielder in August.

Ernesto Valverde indicated on Wednesday he was unsure whether the club would move for Coutinho again, the player having been featured on leaked promotional material from Nike this week to spark fresh intrigue.

Barca icon Rivaldo, who won a brace of league titles in his five-year spell at Camp Nou, has backed Coutinho for a switch to the Catalan giants.

“Coutinho is a very good player and if he ends up signing for Barcelona, he will succeed easily,” Rivaldo told Marca.

“I think he has the characteristics that a footballer needs to succeed in Barcelona.

“The style of play will suit him and fans will give him time to adapt, I think he will succeed.”

Coutinho has been targeted as a potential replacement for Neymar, who left Barcelona in a world-record switch to Paris Saint-Germain in the last transfer window.

And Rivaldo, who won the Ballon d’Or in 1999, believes chasing that individual honour was a key reason behind Neymar’s desire to depart the La Liga leaders.

“It was a difficult moment, it made the team pessimistic,” Rivaldo said of the €222m deal. “Neymar went, principally, because they made him a very good offer.

“Playing in Barcelona, he was in the shadow of [Lionel] Messi and although he was doing very well, Messi is Messi and he has many years left in him.

Article continues below

“I think Neymar left here to try to see if he is the best in the world. If he wants to be it, he will have to knock Cristiano Ronaldo out of the Champions League in the knockout stages in February.”

As well as Coutinho, Barcelona have been linked with another Brazilian midfielder, Arthur, who has a €50m release clause in his Gremio contract.

“I can’t speak about him much because he’s not a player I know a lot about,” added Rivaldo. “I know that he’s a good player with quality, but I don’t know what he would add to Barcelona.”

Let’

Barca boss Valverde coy over ‘great player’ Coutinho’s future

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde says he is in the dark over whether Philippe Coutinho could join from Liverpool in the transfer window.

Goal understands the Reds have softened their stance regarding whether they are willing to sell the Brazil international in January, with Coutinho himself keen to finally see a deal agreed.

Barca have not yet made an offer but there is speculation that a bid worth an initial €110 million is being readied and that the deal could go through this month.

Valverde thinks Coutinho is “a great player” but insists he does not want to talk openly about anyone outside his own squad.

“Sometimes I come in here and I learn about things that are happening; whether they’re true or not, I don’t know,” he told a news conference ahead of Barca’s Copa del Rey clash with Celta Vigo.

“Coutinho plays for another team and he is a great player for that team. If he plays for Barca in the future or not, I don’t know.

“I like the players I have in my team and if another one comes in the future, I’m sure he has to be a very good player, too.”

Asked about Coutinho being ineligible to play in the Champions League this season if he joins Barca this month, Valverde replied: “I’ve got nothing to say about Coutinho. We respect the fact he plays for another club.”

There have also been rumours that Manchester City could look to sign Samuel Umtiti in the coming weeks, with the France international’s release clause at Barca set at a relatively modest €60m.

Valverde, however, expects the centre-back to have no desire to leave Camp Nou halfway through only his second season in Spain.

“I’m not worried about what clubs might or might not do. Umtiti is a great player and we expect him to stay at Barca for many more years and for him to enjoy his football with us,” he said.

Samuel Umtiti Barcelona

“To an extent, the buyout clause is made high so that you can’t buy the player but, as time goes by, that fee doesn’t seem so high at all.

“But the player still has to want to leave. We’re very happy with Umtiti and I’m sure he’s going to stay here for a very long time.”

The Catalan giants were given a boost in the build-up to Thursday’s clash with Celta, with the news that Ousmane Dembele has been cleared to return after being sidelined with a hamstring injury since September.

Article continues below

Valverde now expects January to be an important time for the 20-year-old as he looks to kick-start his Barca career again following last August’s €105m move from Borussia Dortmund.

“He’s an important member of our team. He got injured just as he was getting adapted so he really has to do that all over again,” he said.

“He’s been doing that in training and now we have to see him do it in competitive matches. January will be a very important part of his adaptation process.”

Let’

Liverpool will never get back to the top by selling players like Coutinho

First, the congratulations.

The Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is reckoned to have had three names in mind when drawing up his transfer plans last summer. One was Mo Salah, another was Naby Keita and the third was Virgil van Dijk.

It will take three transfer windows instead of one but, by the time next season kicks off, Klopp should be able to count on all three in his line-up.

Liverpool’s owners, the Fenway Sports Group, have copped plenty of flak for their work in the transfer market, with the Reds seeing plenty of priority targets slip through their grasp in the seven years of FSG ownership.

But here they got the job done – over and again. The deal for RB Leipzig’s Keita was a record-breaker. It improved the highest fee Liverpool ever paid for a player by around £30 million. Van Dijk’s signing bettered that by a few million more.

Virgil van Dijk Liverpool Leicester

But, like a lot of incomings at Anfield, these ones might well come with an asterisk beside them. There is a considerable section of Liverpool’s fans who cannot shake the sensation that Van Dijk and Keita are being paid for with the proceeds of Philippe Coutinho’s imminent transfer to Barcelona.

And more still might ask: how long will these two and Salah be here?

That is a bitter feeling to carry around. With it comes the fear that Klopp might never have his ideal squad; that while he is improving one area of the team, another area is being depleted with players seeking to depart and play their peak years somewhere else.

It’s been a long time since Liverpool made any kind of impact in terms of trophy wins. Under FSG, they have a solitary League Cup to show for their efforts, in 2012. This club gorged themselves on winning decades ago but there are fans approaching middle age who might never remember the times when they are on top.

Jurgen Klopp Mo Salah

And, in the process of that regression, the club have been kicked down a tier. They currently don’t belong up there with Premier League title-winning teams like Chelsea or Manchester City and instead have become a team on the second rung who prime potential world-class talents for big moves.

Chelsea and Manchester City are good examples here because Liverpool have supplied those two clubs with Fernando Torres, Raul Meireles and Raheem Sterling. The first two won the Champions League with Chelsea, while no-one would back against Sterling claiming his first Premier League title this season with City. 

The pattern is well established.

Xabi Alonso left Anfield nine years ago and won domestic and European titles with Real Madrid before adding three successive Bundesliga shields at Bayern Munich.

Javier Mascherano, like Alonso, might have got out just before FSG arrived but the point stands true for him too. When he moves to China this January he will not be carrying all the medals won at Barcelona; they would take him well over his baggage allowance.

Luis Suarez followed his fellow South American’s path in 2014 and won a treble in his first season at Camp Nou and plenty more besides.

The sight of former players – who could have peaked at Anfield – lifting trophies in other colours must be especially galling considering Liverpool have been without a championship for so long.

It’s not that Liverpool’s players are not good enough to win titles, it’s just that they are better equipped to do so elsewhere. FSG have yet to prove they are willing or able to buck that trend.

Whether it’s a deliberate recruitment policy by FSG – to buy low and sell high – is debatable but the truth is no other ‘big’ English team loses their stars to rivals at the rate Liverpool do.

Emre Can might be next. He will go to Juventus in the summer but he will probably not even earn Liverpool a transfer fee. It won’t be long before he is boasting a Scudetto.

Luis Suarez Barcelona Real Madrid

Philippe Coutinho Jurgen Klopp Liverpool

And what of Coutinho?

The indications right now are that Barcelona would love to add the playmaker to their squad this winter. No matter that they are 14 points clear of Real Madrid, no matter that they have just recovered Ousmane Dembele for the second half of the season. They want him now and he wants to go.

He has spent five years on Merseyside with nothing to show for them but could have a Liga title within five months of arriving at Camp Nou.

Article continues below

Liverpool, of course, would prefer he stays until summer. They need him for the Champions League and for their quest to re-qualify for that competition through the Premier League.

Simply put, Liverpool are not going to get to the top of the Premier League and end their near 30-year title drought by selling players like Philippe Coutinho.

Klopp has spoken of the need of making his top stars want to stay. Right now, Anfield is not the ultimate destination; it is a stopover on the way to greatness for the very best. 

Let’

Coutinho pushes Liverpool to consider British-record deal with Barcelona

Philippe Coutinho has repeated his insistence to trade Liverpool for Barcelona in a potential deal that would comfortably surpass the British transfer record.

The Brazil international, who has been in spellbinding form – scoring 12 goals and supplying eight assists in all competitions this campaign – is resolute on furthering his career at Camp Nou after five years of service on Merseyside.

Philippe Coutinho Liverpool Swansea

La Liga’s pacesetters had three bids instantly batted away for the 25-year-old in the summer, the final one of which was a base figure of £82 million bloated by improbable clauses to reach a headline amount of up to £118m.

Given Coutinho’s attitude and application since submitting a transfer request in the summer, the playmaker feels it is only fair for the Reds to accede to his request to leave should they receive a significantly improved proposal that would surpass Paul Pogba’s £89m move from Juventus to Manchester United.

Sources close to the No.10 have revealed Liverpool unsuccessfully tried to alter Coutinho’s mind by presenting multiple incentives and a greater wage packet to their highest earner.

Barca’s long-term vision of building around the virtuoso is too attractive for him to ignore and, having won no trophies during his spell at Anfield despite coming close, he believes he owes it to himself to take the next step in his career –  a decision encouraged by family members.

Coutinho’s camp, pushing the Catalan club’s objective, have worked tirelessly to erode the “definitive stance” Liverpool adopted in the last window.

Philippe Coutinho Arsenal Liverpool Premier League 12222017

The Merseysiders are more open to their two-time Player of the Season’s departure if Barca, who are having to navigate financial constraints, replace their bluster with a blockbuster offer.

The strong declarations from Liverpool in the summer – when they refused to allow their plans for the season to be derailed on account of Neymar exiting Camp Nou for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record deal – have been replaced by more ambiguous comments in recent weeks.

Jurgen Klopp noted in August that “in life everything is about timing – whichever club asks early enough. If you ask early enough, you can either switch the plan or whatever. But you cannot come up, close to the start of the season and things like this. It’s like I said: the club is bigger than anybody. That is the most important thing.

“It is about timing. That is how I understand it. And that is all I have to say. Maybe everybody has a price – in the right moment. In the wrong moment? No price.”

Five-and-a-half months of knowing Barca’s aim as well as what the Brazilian desires have allowed Liverpool to better prepare for his exit.

Klopp on Coutinho gfx

If Barca finally submit a strong proposal to the Reds, there is the possibility of concluding a deal in the winter, which allows Coutinho to seal a switch ahead of 2018-19.

That would not weaken the second half of Liverpool’s campaign as they look to push on in the Champions League and secure a top-four finish domestically.

Whether Barca are geared to table a greatly enhanced version of their last bid in the summer, or if Ernesto Valverde’s side and the midfielder accept an advance arrangement as opposed to one effective immediately, remains to be seen.

Article continues below

There is confidence from those in the Rio-born maestro’s circle that an agreement can be reached and despite Nike’s now-deleted gaffe, which advertised a Coutinho customisation of Barca’s current kit on their website, nothing has been finalised yet.

Meanwhile, reports suggesting the Premier League side will take the apparel giants – sponsors of Barca and the player – to court over the error are incorrect. Nike has remained silent on the matter.

Coutinho sat out Liverpool’s New Year’s Day victory over Burnley with a minor thigh issue but was in line to be rested regardless given he started the previous five fixtures in a row.

Let’

Coutinho and Salah derby doubts for Liverpool’s clash with Everton

Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah are “not massively” injured, but both are doubtful for Liverpool’s FA Cup derby date with Everton.

The key duo have picked up untimely knocks, with neither able to feature in Monday’s 2-1 Premier League victory over Burnley.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were able to get the job done at Turf Moor without their assistance , but the Reds will not want to be without either for long.

It could, however, be that they welcome arch-rivals Everton to Anfield on Friday without the services of a creative influence being heavily linked with Barcelona and their 23-goal top scorer.

Klopp told reporters after victory over Burnley when quizzed for a fitness update: “Phil and Mo are injured, not massively, but enough for today [to be] no chance.

“And [they are] a doubt, at least a doubt, for Everton.”

It appeared at one stage as though Liverpool may also be without Sadio Mane against Burnley, with the Senegalese forward having suffered a groin injury against Leicester.

Mo Salah Sadio Mane

He was, however, able to start and score in a crucial victory which keeps the Reds inside the top four.

Klopp will be hoping to have him available again when Everton make the short trip across Stanley Park, although fears have been raised as to a potentially energy-sapping trip prior to the third-round date.

Both Mane and Salah are set to attend the African Footballer of the Year awards in Ghana on Thursday, with Liverpool confident a 6,600-mile journey will not be an issue.

Article continues below

Klopp added: “It is not a problem, we have everything organised.

“We have two of the three best African players in our squad. We have to show them respect. We are going to sleep in a hotel the night before the match, they are going to sleep on a plane. That is the only difference.

“It is just a sign of respect. I know it. I had [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang at Dortmund and there is nothing more important than to go there.”

Let’

Klopp ‘couldn’t be less interested’ in Coutinho-Nike ‘leak’ as Barcelona links persist

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said he “couldn’t be less interested in anything in the world” regarding Nike’s apparent leak of Philippe Coutinho’s rumoured transfer to Barcelona.

The Brazilian has been linked with the Catalan giants since the start of the season and was not part of the Reds’ squad for Monday’s 2-1 victory at Burnley due to a minor thigh complaint.

Article continues below

Build-up to that clash was dominated by sportswear manufacturer Nike advertising customisation of Barca’s 2017-18 kit along with the caption: “Philippe Coutinho is ready to light up Camp Nou. Get your 2017-18 FC Barcelona kit with the Magician’s name on it. Act fast – free personalisation only available until 6 January.”

Nike later deleted the page and it remains unclear whether it was a PR blunder or online hacking, but Klopp remains unfazed either way.

“I heard about it. I couldn’t be less interested in anything in the world but someone told me and I thought, ‘Wow, top story’,” Klopp told a media conference.

Let’

Did Nike leak Coutinho’s move from Liverpool to Barcelona?

Barcelona are seemingly preparing for the arrival of Philippe Coutinho as Nike appeared to confirm the Liverpool star’s signing on its website on Saturday night.

Liverpool fans were left sweating when the giant sportswear manufacturer and Barcelona apparel sponsor appeared to leak the blockbuster transfer via its online store.

Advertising customisation of Barca’s 2017-18 kit, a caption read: “Philippe Coutinho is ready to light up Camp Nou. Get your 2017-18 FC Barcelona kit with the Magician’s name on it. Act fast – free personalisation only available until January 6.”

Nike later deleted the page and it remains to be seen whether it was a PR blunder or online hacking.

Coutinho has been at the centre of a drawn-out transfer saga as Barca try to lure the Brazil international away from Anfield.

Barca reportedly had a £115 million offer for Coutinho turned down by Liverpool in August but the La Liga leaders are believed to be readying another bid in January.

Embed only: Barcelona - Coutinho Nike leak

Coutinho Nike screenshot

A deal worth £125m is reportedly in the works, with Liverpool more open to selling Coutinho at the turn of the year than they were in the summer.

Indeed, Liverpool were blindsided by Barca’s approach in pre-season, with Coutinho central to their planning for the new campaign.

However, time has softened their stance and allowed for proper planning to be conducted – the Reds have already agreed a deal to sign midfielder Naby Keita from Red Bull Leipzig in the summer, and have also completed the protracted signing of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton for a world-record £75m.

Coutinho – who handed in a transfer request a – played 89 minutes in Liverpool’s 2-1 victory over Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday.

Article continues below

The 25-year-old has scored seven Premier League goals this season, while claiming six assists.

Barcelona are currently top of LaLiga, leading second-placed Atletico Madrid by nine points and bitter rivals Real Madrid, who lie fourth, by 14.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are fourth in the Premier League, 17 points behind leaders Manchester City but four ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham, who have a game in hand.

Let’

Klopp: No need to sell Coutinho to balance Liverpool books

Jurgen Klopp insists Liverpool do not need to sell Philippe Coutinho to recoup the cash spent on their £75 million swoop for Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk.

The Reds’ move to make Netherlands international Van Dijk the most expensive defender of all time was confirmed on Wednesday, drawing a line under one of the transfer sagas that dominated the close season at Anfield.

The other was Barcelona’s ultimately fruitless pursuit of Brazil playmaker Coutinho, who has resumed his pivotal role at Liverpool and been in sublime form while notching seven goals in December

As such, reports of Barca’s interest have persisted but Klopp is adamant his move to secure Van Dijk will not affect the future of a player for whom the La Liga leaders reportedly had a £115m bid turned down in August.

“No, nobody told me that [I would have to sell Coutinho],” he told reporters.

“We have good players and we don’t have to sell anybody because of that. So fair play to our owners that they are ambitious.”

Klopp has handed the captain’s armband to Coutinho during Jordan Henderson’s recent injury absence – a situation far removed from the former Inter player’s transfer request when Barcelona’s pursuit reached a crescendo back in August.

“The only thing I will say and the only thing I am interested in is how is Phil playing at the moment,” Klopp said. “I was really happy about the last few performances and about his impact.

“He showed his character in the games and in the training sessions. That was spot on. It was really good. That is what I am interested in because all the rest I can’t, and don’t, want to talk about it because if I open the door then you [the media] run all the way through.

“If there is something to say you will know. In my business it makes absolute no sense to talk about things that ‘could’ ‘maybe” happen because all it does is create stories which 90 per cent of the time are not true. Why should we do that?”

Klopp also credited Van Dijk’s “100 per cent” desire to join Liverpool as a key factor in a blockbusting transfer that will be officially completed on January 1, following reported interest from Premier League leaders Manchester City in the 26-year-old.

Article continues below

“He wanted to come here 100 per cent and that is a very important thing,” he added.

“Because imagine in this moment you are a football guy and a few clubs are looking for someone, and they don’t hesitate or are not shy with money as well.

“That was not his intention. He wanted to join us and nobody else. That’s another really good thing.”

Let’

Klopp plays down talk of Coutinho captaincy being Barcelona snub hint

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has played down Philippe Coutinho being given the captain’s armband in the absence of Jordan Henderson and James Milner.

Coutinho continues to be strongly linked with a switch to Barcelona after the Catalan giants failed with an attempted move for the Brazilian in August.

With club captain Henderson out with a hamstring injury and his deputy Milner benched, Coutinho captained Liverpool to a 5-0 demolition of Swansea City on Boxing Day and scored a delightful opening goal.

Coutinho has scored in three consecutive Premier League appearances to take his tally to 12 in all competitions this season, but Klopp played down the importance of the midfielder being given the captaincy, denying it is a hint Liverpool will be able to keep the 25-year-old throughout the January transfer window.

“I don’t want to make the story less romantic but it’s how I said it – when Hendo [Henderson] and Milly [Milner] are not playing I have to look [for a captain],” Klopp told reporters on Friday. “Phil is long-serving, so he is captain.

“I could say that if I give him the captaincy he’ll never leave or he’ll be happier, but that’s not how it works. The armband does different things, you can feel the lift or the pressure.

“It didn’t disturb him, so it’s all good in the moment. It’s a good moment [for Coutinho], I’m not sure if the armband has a big influence, but he has played very well in the last couple of weeks especially. 

“It’s just an armband and not more. The job Hendo and Milly do in the dressing room is different. In England when you get the armband everyone tells you what you have to do. It’s important on the pitch, but not in the same way.”

Liverpool have already confirmed the signing of Virgil van Dijk, the Southampton centre-back set to join on January 1 for a world-record fee for a defender, widely reported to be £75 million.

But Klopp insisted the price tag of the Netherlands international is not a concern, with Van Dijk’s arrival breaking the club-record fee agreed to bring Naby Keita to Anfield from RB Leipzig at the end of the season.

Article continues below

“If you want to sign a player, the last thing I think about is the price,” Klopp added. “Not because I like throwing money around, but because we’re thinking about the player.

“You either accept the price or you do not. It’s a big change in football and we have to adapt to it, that’s how it is. It doesn’t mean all transfers will be in this category but now we have a big transfer for a defensive player.

“It’s not nice, but that’s the market and that’s the world – we have to adapt to it.”

Let’