Barcelona want Philippe Coutinho and have so far made two offers to land the star midfielder. Neither came close to tempting Liverpool to sell. Their latest, an €85M base fee potentially rising to €100M with add-ons, seemed if anything a touch insulting given the current market, Coutinho’s importance to his current club, and the funds Barcelona have on hand following the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.
It was never a fee that would tempt Liverpool to reconsider their no-sale stance. It was, though, perhaps enough to convince Coutinho of their seriousness, as it was soon followed by the player handing in a transfer request and embarking on a scorched earth policy in an attempt to force his exit. Behind the scenes, Barcelona were telling Coutinho it was now or never; in public, they launched a bid for advertised at €100M.
It got Liverpool’s back up; got the club to dig their heels in. And it got Coutinho to hand in a transfer request and send his representatives off to tell Sky that he felt aggrieved by the way Jürgen Klopp had treated him. Twenty-four hours before the season opener; days before a season-defining Champions League playoff. It was timed to cause maximum damage—to the club and his relationship with the people at it.
Now, a third bid is in the works. A bid that might reach €150M if reports are to be believed. Liverpool’s stance, at least as transmitted via briefed journalists, remains that it will not be enough to get them to consider a sale. But it should be. If those reports of an €150M offer are on the mark, they should at least consider it—and they should now doing their due diligence to see if that cash can be turned into players.
The club will, or at least should, know for certain if a €150M bid is coming. Barcelona are desperate to sign Coutinho and desperate to negotiate, to get a deal done. If a third bid of €150M is possible, Liverpool should by now have reached out to the Catalan club about it. Because there is a case to be made for that €150M—especially if all or at least most of it is paid up front with the Neymar money—is Liverpool’s pain threshold.
Or at least that it should be the club’s pain threshold, to steal the phrase from RB Leipzig director of football Ralf Rangnick. And it should be Liverpool’s pain threshold for Coutinho in part because of Rangnick and Leipzig, who stymied Liverpool time and again earlier this summer as they chased after 22-year-old Guinean midfielder Naby Keïta. Because, at the end of the day, there is a pain threshold for Leipzig, too.
Selling Coutinho would help Liverpool to reach that pain threshold, something they appear unable to do with the £120-130M budget left at their disposal. That was meant to be more than enough to land both Keïta and Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk this summer, but Liverpool signalling that they were willing to go to £70M for Keïta resulted in nothing but shrugs and dismissive comments from Rangnick and Leipzig.
They would similarly be willing to go big for Van Dijk, up to £60M based on reports from briefed journalists, but even that might not be enough. A Coutinho sale, though, at €150M—or around £137M—would functionally double their remaining summer budget. It would mean being able to offer Leipzig £90M or more for Keïta and Saints £80M or more for Van Dijk, potentially hitting those clubs’ pain thresholds.
Would that be an excessive spend on the two players? Absolutely. But Jürgen Klopp has signalled those are the two players he wants; that those are the centre half and midfielder he wants; that to not land them risks Liverpool perhaps signing nobody at their positions when it is clear the club desperately need to strengthen at both. And if they’re the only two players for Klopp, selling Coutinho might just get them signed.
And, in a scenario where Barcelona meet Liverpool’s pain threshold for Coutinho and it allows Liverpool to turn around and tack on £20M or even £30M on to their offers for Keïta and Van Dijk, it would leave a minimum of £60-80M on top of that for Liverpool to sign a winger—the third player they would need if they sold Coutinho in a summer when they know keeping the Brazilian still means they need two more major signings.
Lorenzo Insigne, Julian Draxler, Christian Pulisic. There are wingers Liverpool have been reliably linked to over the past year, and £60-80M would surely pry one of them loose, even in the current inflated market. Selling Coutinho for upwards of £130M and taking the club’s remaining transfer budget northwards of £250M would allow them to buy one of them; would allow to club to throw £250M at three players Klopp wants.
It’s a tempting proposition, particularly when the reality is that if Coutinho stays, it would only be under duress and for one final year. It’s a tempting proposition when, if Coutinho stays, even signing one of the stars Klopp wants is a long shot. And it’s a tempting proposition because with Keïta and Van Dijk, the relationships are established—they wouldn’t be desperation moves akin to Andy Carroll replacing Fernando Torres.
All of that, though, is dependant on Liverpool having gauged the legitimacy of Barcelona’s supposed third monster bid that’s in the works. All of that is dependant on Liverpool, if €150M is on the way, reaching out to Leipzig and Southampton and putting money on the table. All of that is dependant on Liverpool getting at least those two deals done before selling Coutinho—a third , for a winger, is a little less urgent.
If Barcelona are really prepared now to offer €150M for Coutinho, that should be Liverpool’s pain threshold. That should be enough to get them to sell a player who has burnt his bridges with Klopp and would be gone next summer even if he was forced to stay. But that should only be the case if it means Liverpool can turn around and bring in Keïta and Van Dijk and, before the window closes, a winger that Jürgen Klopp wants.
If Liverpool can’t do that, then there really is no pain threshold when it comes to Coutinho. But right now, the club should be working to find out if they can end the window with Coutinho departed but Keïta and Van Dijk and a winger like Draxler or Insigne or Pulisic having arrived—rather than keeping and unhappy Philippe Coutinho and, at best, perhaps only having added Van Dijk to the squad.