Philippe Coutinho has been linked to Barcelona sporadically over the last 12 months, but the current speculation seems to be genuine and Liverpool are facing a battle to keep hold of arguably their best player. The club insist that he hasn’t asked to leave Anfield, but Barcelona are increasingly confident that a deal can be agreed with the Reds. A prominent reason why the La Liga giants want to sign Coutinho in this window is linked to Neymar’s uncertain future. It would go a long way to making the Brazilian feel settled at the Nou Camp if his compatriot was signed, as Marca report the two have a close friendship. Meanwhile, if Neymar leaves Los Cules, the club will need to make a statement signing and the Liverpool midfielder would fit the bill.
Andres Iniesta is approaching the end of his career at the highest level and Barcelona realise the importance of finding an heir for the midfielder. Coutinho could be one of the best options for the Spanish club, as he has an excellent range of passing and a dynamic style in the middle of the park. He is capable of drifting past opposition players to create space in the attacking half and possesses the quality to produce a meaningful final ball. It will be near impossible to find a like-for-like replacement for Iniesta and Coutinho wouldn’t be that, but he is a top class player capable of filling the creative void.
Would Coutinho be interested in a move?
The Brazilian has progressed rapidly under Jurgen Klopp and has emerged as one of the finest players in the Premier League. At the start of last season, he was easily one of the best and most consistent players in the league. He would have challenged for the PFA Player of the Year award if he had managed to stay fit. The 25-year-old ended the season with 13 goals and seven assists. Although this is a good haul, he is capable of even more. His role on the left wing was an effective one, but he is more devastating in central areas. This is why a move to Barcelona will appeal, as he would get to play there on a more regular basis.
Liverpool are a club on the up under Jurgen Klopp and they are now back in the Champions League. The stage is certainly there for Coutinho to continue his development on the biggest stage. However, the Reds are unlikely to be challenging for major honours this season. It is a slow rebuilding process under Klopp and Coutinho may feel that he is at a more advanced stage than the rest of the team. Barcelona are one of the best teams in the world and he would be afforded the chance to win the biggest trophies in the game. It would be difficult for him to turn down if the opportunity arose to join Los Cules.
Should Liverpool sell Coutinho?
This is a difficult question. Coutinho is crucial to Liverpool and to lose him at this stage of the summer would be a huge blow. They have yet to sign their own priority targets as negotiations continue over Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keita. It would put an even more pressure on the board if they also had to source a replacement for Philippe Coutinho. The timing isn’t great, but it would be hard to prevent the midfielder leaving if that is what he wanted to do.
There needs to be a lot of planning going on behind the scenes to identify possible replacments just in case Coutinho does depart. If he does, Liverpool need to get a huge fee for the midfielder, as he is easily worth upwards of £80 million in the current market, especially when the poor timing is factored in. They should try to come to an agreement with Barcelona to sell Coutinho next summer to give him one more year of development in the Premier League, but that may not be possible if the Spaniards push hard for an immediate transfer.