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Philippe Coutinho has been told he will be a Barcelona player before the end of this week after Liverpool agreed a British and Spanish record transfer fee for the Brazil international. Barca will pay up to €160million for the attacking midfielder if all performance-related variables are met.
Coutinho was informed that Liverpool owner Fenway Sports Group had finally acceded to his request to exit the Anfield club before he left Merseyside on national team duty. The 25-year-old – who has not played for Liverpool since the beginning of August, missing a series of training sessions with what the club described as a “sore back” and illness – was yesterday declared “in perfect condition to play” by Brazil’s medical staff
Liverpool are understood to have asked Barcelona to delay the completion of Coutinho’s transfer to allow them to secure a replacement. Discussions have been held with AS Monaco over the purchase of Thomas Lemar, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains a cheaper option.
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Liverpool face competition from Premier League rivals for both players. Chelsea have made a formal offer for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has entered the final year of his Arsenal contract. Jose Mourinho is interested in taking Lemar, a target for Arsene Wenger for most of this summer’s window. According to a Monaco source, the principality’s club owner is open to selling the France international.
On Monday, Liverpool completed an unorthodox deal to sign Guinea international Naby Keita from RB Leipzig in July 2018. They have paid a substantial premium on top of a €55m release clause that enters into effect ahead of next summer’s transfer window to guarantee the acquisition of the midfielder. The Bundesliga club refused to sell Keita this year.
Liverpool are also attempting to recruit a new centre-back before Thursday’s transfer deadline with Virgil van Dijk their number-one choice for a long standing problem position. Like Coutinho, Van Dijk has made a formal transfer request in an attempt to force Southampton to let him join one of several Premier League suitors.
FSG will hope that the flurry of high-value signings will be sufficient to appease Liverpool supporters over an enforced sale that the American investment group categorically ruled out earlier this month. “We wish to offer clarity as regards our position on a possible transfer of Philippe Coutinho,” said FSG in an August 11 statement on the club’s website. “The club’s definitive stance is that no offers for Philippe will be considered and he will remain a member of Liverpool Football Club when the summer window closes.”
Softening on selling
FSG’s formal position on Coutinho was bookended by a series of press conferences in which Jurgen Klopp also stated that the Brazilian would not be allowed to leave Liverpool. Last week, Klopp told press that Coutinho would be welcomed back to his squad with open arms and that his personal relationship with the player was “absolutely, 100 per cent” okay.
Several of Coutinho’s team-mates had already come to the conclusion that Coutinho would be sold to Barcelona, with sources close to the player describing a deterioration in his relationship with the German to the point where “he does not like the manager one bit”. Klopp is said to have sought to make an example of Coutinho, intentionally frustrating the player’s effort to move before either Liverpool or Barca’s domestic campaigns had started in order to send a message to the rest of the Anfield squad. “He has been trying to play the hard man,” said a source.
In addition to Coutinho’s record fee, Liverpool are understood to be close to agreeing the sale of Mamadou Sakho. The defender’s preference is to re-join Crystal Palace after spending the second half of last season on loan to the London club. Liverpool are asking £30m for the France international.