FC Barcelona could complete a long-proposed coup for Brazil playmaker Philippe Coutinho, although it will take the second highest transfer fee in history to move Liverpool.
The Reds rejected three bids from Barcelona in the summer — but despite the third being worth up to €130m and including €40m in potential add-ons, manager Jurgen Klopp and club officials stated that the 25-year-old was not for sale.
However, it was understood that the stance has since softened and Coutinho’s representatives have continued to explore the possibility of Liverpool sanctioning their client’s departure to the Camp Nou.
There was further speculation as Nike, Barcelona’s kit supplier and a Coutinho sponsor, incorrectly announced a deal had been done on Saturday but Liverpool are not taking legal action over the story and Klopp dismissed it at Burnley, claiming he could not be less interested.
Still, it remains that the Liverpool manager, who has been repeatedly questioned about Coutinho’s mooted departure in recent weeks, has been reluctant to state the Brazilian will remain at Anfield until the end of the season — unlike in the summer and perhaps wary of upsetting an in-form player.
Despite a foiled move in the summer, Coutinho, who also had a transfer request rejected and missed the first few games of the season with a back injury, kept his best form and scored 12 goals in 20 appearances as well as playing a significant role in their progress to the Champions League knockout stage.
This meant that Barca would have to bid around €50m more than they paid to make Ousmane Dembélé the second most expensive player in the world for Liverpool to contemplate a deal that could disrupt the second half of a promising season.
Coutinho missed the New Year’s Day Premier Leaguewin at Burnley owing to a minor thigh strain and is also doubtful for Friday’s FA Cup third-round home tie against Everton.