Barcelona stepping up their pursuit of Philippe Coutinho was really not what Liverpool needed this summer. Jurgen Klopp’s focus has been on trying to add top quality talent to what he already has, and losing his prized asset would undermine everything he is trying to achieve. Understandably, Liverpool seem determined not to let it happen.
Mohamed Salah, Andrew Robertson and Dominic Solanke have joined, but despite having vast swathes of cash to spend Liverpool have been struggling to secure their top targets. Even if Liverpool got a world record fee for Coutinho it may not be much use to Klopp and this is no doubt a factor in the German’s firm “not for sale” stance.
Liverpool don’t need to sell their star man and their position appears pretty unequivocal right now. Klopp has no intention of losing the little Brazilian, and Barcelona upping their opening offer (which was rather insulting in today’s inflated market) is not going to change that.
What might make Klopp reconsider is if Coutinho pushes for the move and makes his position at the club untenable. Ironic really, because that is exactly what Liverpool supporters have been calling for their top targets to do.
Kopites welcomed the news that Virgil van Dijk was training on his own after telling Southampton he wanted to leave, and they would be more than happy for Naby Keita to follow the same path in order to put pressure on RB Leipzig to accept Liverpool’s latest offer. Should Coutinho do likewise, however, it would be an entirely different story. Such is the hypocrisy of being a football supporter.
Would Coutinho even go down that route though? Perhaps this is naive, but he really doesn’t seem the type. While only the most deluded of Liverpool supporters would believe that a move to Barcelona holds no allure for Coutinho, that doesn’t mean he’ll kick up a stink to get it.
The most likely outcome is that he will come to a gentleman’s agreement with Klopp and give Liverpool another year before possibly making the move next summer. Expecting him to reject Barcelona out of hand is unrealistic. He’s a footballer and almost without exception footballers see playing for Barcelona or Real Madrid as the pinnacle of their profession.
It’s extremely rare for a club to make a bid for a player without having first sounded out his representatives, so if Barca have made an offer it’s safe to assume they’ve had some encouragement to do so. If not by Coutinho himself, then perhaps by his agent. This is how transfers work.
Liverpool have been in this situation before, In recent times they have lost Luis Suarez and Javier Mascherano to the Catalan giants and Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid, so they know how this works and they appear to have already pre-empted this situation by recently tying Coutinho down to a long term deal with no release clause.
If Coutinho was so determined to move this summer, why would he agree to that contract? Suarez left within months of extending his contract, but that deal contained a water tight release clause should any club match the agreed fee. Coutinho, we are told, has no such clause, so unless he demands to leave Liverpool are right to not even be contemplating a sale.
From Liverpool’s perspective, this isn’t just about Coutinho. It’s about Suarez, Mascherano, Alonso and whoever comes next. Klopp grew accustomed to having his best players at Borussia Dortmund taken away by rivals Bayern Munich, and he does not want Liverpool to be forced down a similar road, but his recent statement that the Reds are “not a selling club” will look daft if Coutinho leaves this summer.
Retaining him is vital for Liverpool this summer, partly because of his importance to the team, but mostly for the message it would send out to Barcelona, who for too long have been able to take whoever they want from English clubs.
Ultimately, the only way to stop players wanting to leave for the La Liga giants is to be able to offer them more money and an equal or better chance of success. Liverpool are finally in a position to do the former, it’s up to Klopp to see to the latter.