Liverpool eventually blocked Philippe Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona after failing in their bid to replace the Brazil international with Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller, reports suggest. Coutinho was at the centre of a long-running transfer saga during the summer window, which ended with him staying at Anfield after three separate offers were turned down.
Barca’s pursuit finally ended on the final day of the Spanish transfer window (1 September) after they claimed to have been quoted €200m (£177m) to sign Coutinho, a suggestion the Premier League outfit have denied. Attempts to replace Neymar following his world record move to Paris Saint-Germain eventually saw them complete the signing of France international Ousmane Dembele in a deal which could rise to a club record £135m.
But while Liverpool were steadfastly adamant that Coutinho would not be leaving the club, behind the scenes they were preparing for his departure by lining up a series of possible replacements. West Ham United’s Manuel Lanzini was heavily linked with the Merseysiders, but the offer of a new contract and an early season injury put paid to his move away from the London Stadium.
German publication Bild now understands that Bayern striker Muller was considered by Liverpool, but the Bundesliga side’s refusal to do business saw the pursuit thwarted. The report says that with Barcelona willing to offer €120m [£106m] for Coutinho, the Reds were willing to pay €100m [£88m] to bring Muller to England.
However, despite signing James Rodriguez, Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman on permanent deals in the summer, Bayern knocked back the interest in the Germany international. The response led to Liverpool shutting down all discussions with Barcelona; causing Coutinho to remain with Jurgen Klopp’s side for the 2017-18 campaign.
Barcelona are said to have already given up trying to sign Coutinho in the January window after the 25-year-old played for Liverpool in the Champions League, making him ineligible for any other club in the competition. Reports had suggested Coutinho would go on strike in the competition to keep hopes of moving to the Nou Camp alive, but his cameo appearance in the 2-2 draw with Sevilla ended those suggestions.
Despite Liverpool’s interest in Muller, the striker’s reputation has taken a substantial hit during the last 12 months after a 2016-17 campaign in which he scored just nine goals. The joint-seventh highest scorer in World Cup history and 2010 golden boot winner has only netted once in eight appearances this term, though there appears no sign that he will fall out of favour with manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Muller has previously admitted to being subject to interest from Manchester United, and could have moved to Old Trafford two years ago during Louis van Gaal’s spell in charge. “There was a stage when the subject [a move to United] arose two years ago when I considered it, but then the club immediately backed me and I was told I belong here,” Muller told German football magazine Kicker earlier in September. “I didn’t have to think about it a great deal after Bayern said we are counting on you and that you are an important man for us.”