Philippe Coutinho hopes to complete his long-proposed move to Barcelona this month but it will take the second highest transfer fee in history for Liverpool to consider selling the Brazil international.
Liverpool rejected three Barcelona bids for their playmaker in the summer, the third worth up to €130m (£119m) and including €40m (£36.6m) in add-ons, with their manager Jürgen Klopp stating publicly that the 25-year-old was not for sale. That stance has softened recently and Coutinho’s representatives have continued to explore the possibility of Liverpool finally sanctioning their client’s departure to the Camp Nou.
Coutinho remains determined to join the La Liga leaders and while a deal could be struck this month that would allow the Brazilian to move in the summer, his preference is for a January exit.
The former Internazionale midfielder has responded impressively to his disappointment of the summer, when he had a transfer request rejected and missed the first few games of the season with a back injury, scoring 12 goals in 20 appearances for Klopp’s side and playing an instrumental role in their progress to the Champions League knockout stage.
Barcelona would have to bid around €50m more than they paid to make Ousmane Dembélé the second most expensive player in the world behind Neymar for Liverpool to contemplate a deal that could disrupt the second half of a promising season.
Coutinho missed the New Year’s Day win at Burnleydue to a minor thigh strain and is also doubtful for Friday’s FA Cup third-round tie with Everton. Nike, Barcelona’s kit supplier and a Coutinho sponsor, incorrectly announced a deal had been done on Saturday but Liverpool are not taking legal action over the error and Klopp dismissed the story at Burnley, claiming he could not be less interested.
The Liverpool manager has been asked repeatedly about Coutinho’s mooted departure in recent weeks but, unlike the summer and perhaps wary of upsetting an in-form player, he has been reluctant to state the Brazilian will remain at Anfield until the end of the season. One such example came on Friday, when Klopp insisted he did not have to balance the books following Virgil van Dijk’s £75m arrival at Liverpool and wanted to keep his squad intact.
When asked whether that applied to Coutinho, and whether he would say the player is not for sale this month, the Liverpool manager replied: “I try to be honest but you know that in January and all the next transfer windows I don’t talk about that. Phil especially. I have nothing to say about it. The only thing I am interested in is how Phil is playing at the moment. I was really happy about the last few performances and his impact. He showed his character in the games and in the training sessions. He was spot on. That is what I am interested in.
“All the rest I can’t and I am not interested in talking about because if I open the door you [the media] will run all the way through. In my business it makes absolutely no sense to talk about things that could maybe happen because that creates stories that are 90% of the time not true. Why should I do that? I will never do it to be honest.”