The opening of transfer business has brought a sense of deja vu at Anfield, Coutinho making it clear he still wants to leave while Liverpool seek to protect the interests of the club.
Unlike last summer, there is a deafening silence on the issue of whether Coutinho will be allowed to go. When bids materialised last July, Liverpool issued a statement insisting they will not sell. This backed up private assurances the 25-year-old would not be sold, the player and his representatives informed of Liverpool’s uncompromising stance.
This time, Klopp’s position has shifted, the hardline language of July and August significantly absent.
Not even the extraordinary gaffe of Barcelona’s kit suppliers, Nike, advertising Coutinho’s imminent arrival has provoked a strong response. The messages are far more ambiguous. Klopp said the Nike incident ‘did not interest’ him. Coutinho feels more encouraged a deal might be struck.
Liverpool will demand astronomical fee from Barcelona to sell Philippe Coutinho
Much depends on Barcelona’s stance, especially whether they are prepared to significantly increase their bids from last summer. It is not clear if the La Liga giants have the funds for such a mammoth deal.
Their last offer was £115 million, but this was inclusive of numerous add-ons such as Coutinho winning the Ballon d’Or. Such offers are unrealistic, especially in a market where Liverpool have just paid £75 million for a centre-back.
Liverpool knew this issue would be revived. Coutinho failed to play for the club during the last transfer window, citing a bad back. He missed Liverpool’s win at Burnley on Monday with a thigh problem but has a chance of being fit for this Friday’s FA Cup tie with Everton. His injury is not serious.
Some reports in Spain claim Coutinho has no intention of playing for the club again. That would take the saga into a sour direction, but similar claims were made last summer when a transfer request was placed. Coutinho later returned and produced some of his best form to help Liverpool into the top four and last 16 of the Champions League.
He would be giving up the chance to win the competition with Liverpool by leaving now, but even that has not persuaded him to wait until the summer.
The player’s determination to go therefore leaves Liverpool - or more pertinently Klopp - with a potential dilemma if Barcelona make a move.
Clearly the manager and the club’s owners would prefer the player to stay until the end of the season, but there is also pragmatism.
Liverpool will also point out that until another Barcelona offer materialises - a bid that dwarfs those five months ago - there is no decision to be made, regardless of Coutino’s wish to move to Spain at the earliest opportunity.