Exclusive: Liverpool and Barcelona meet for Philippe Coutinho transfer talks
Liverpool are due to hold discussions today over Philippe Coutinho’s long-awaited transfer to Barcelona, with the English Premier League club signalling their readiness to sell the Brazil international if their asking price is met.
A fee of €150million – a record for a move in or out of English football – has been mooted by Liverpool, who want any performance-related variables included in that total to be “realistically achievable”.
Both Liverpool’s American owner, Fenway Sports Group, and the club’s manager, Jurgen Klopp, have refused to publicly commit to retaining Coutinho in the current window; in direct contrast to the official stance taken in August as Barcelona made a series of offers for the attacking midfielder. In the background, Liverpool have been working on a deal to recruit a high-profile replacement for Coutinho.
Thomas Lemar has talked with Liverpool and, according to sources close to the France international, decided to join from AS Monaco assuming a transfer fee can be agreed with the Ligue 1 club. Liverpool bid for Lemar – who is also on Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho’s shortlist – in the summer window, only to be gazumped by a €95m deadline-day offer from Arsenal.
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Unconvinced that Arsenal was the best platform on which to further his career, Lemar rejected the move to north London to remain at Monaco. Liverpool’s continued efforts to secure the 22-year-old ahead of other suitors suggest that the aggression the club demonstrated in outmuscling domestic rivals and paying a world record £75m for centre back Virgil van Dijk this month will not be limited to just one new recruit.
As he was for every competitive fixture played in the summer transfer window, Coutinho is currently sidelined with what the club describes as a “minor” injury – on this occasion a thigh injury, rather than the “sore back” that was cited when the Brazilian attempted to force a summer exit. It is understood that the player’s representatives have again assured Coutinho that a deal will be concluded to allow him to join Barcelona.
The La Liga leaders went into the window intimating that they wanted to cap any fee for Coutinho at €100m as club revenue needed to be redirected to the additional costs of securing Lionel Messi’s contract extension and the recruitment of a new central defender. With Liverpool’s groundwork done on a Coutinho replacement, there is now greater confidence in Barcelona that an agreement can be arrived at on a fee and the Brazilian clad in a shirt that the Catalans have already marketed to their supporters online.
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Asked last week about the threat posed to Liverpool’s season by a January sale, Klopp said: “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. Something has happened at our club already. The only thing I am interested in is how is Phil 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 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 per cent of the time not true. Why should I do that? I will never do it.”