It’s taken a month of endlessly regurgitated stories, three rejected bids, and a transfer request from the player, but Barcelona have finally accepted what Liverpool have been telling them all along: Philippe Coutinho isn’t for sale. Not this summer, not at this late a stage in it, not with Liverpool unable to replace the player.
According to multiple reports out of Spain today, from Catalonia’s RAC1, Sky reporter Guillem Balague, and others, with yesterday’s 7PM deadline having passed, Barcelona have now moved on. For midfield, they will instead target Nice’s Jean Seri, a player who has been tenuously linked with Liverpool in recent weeks.
And given how little, in real money terms, they were willing to offer for Coutinho, it’s hard to understand what their intentions really were—because the reality is that Liverpool couldn’t actually have accepted Barcelona’s third and now, presumably, final bid even if they had been looking to sell Cotuinho this summer.
Despite the headlining figure of £114M (€125M) meant to impress fans and mislead pundits—who swiftly labelled Liverpool crazy, reckless, foolish, and any number of excitable adjectives for rejecting it—both the guaranteed money and the money that Liverpool would have received this summer was far, far less than that.
Only a little more than £80M of the bid was guaranteed, and that was set to be paid in five equal payments of around £16M. Only the first instalment would have arrived this summer. Liverpool’s second Naby Keïta bid, by comparison, included a first instalment of €50M (£46M) and few significant add-ons in its €72M (£66M) total.
The add-ons that would take it from £80M to £114M then ranged from unlikely to nearly impossible to achieve. They included clauses based on Barcelona winning multiple Champions League titles, Coutinho winning the Ballon d’Or, and Coutinho winning the Ballon d’Or and Champions League in the same year.
In real money terms—taking inflation, interest, and the value of cash in hand for doing deals—there’s a case to be made that Liverpool’s second Keïta bid wasn’t very far off Barcelona’s third bid for Coutinho in real value. Given the timing, player, and that they just got €222M for Neymar, the Barcelona bid was downright insulting.
It was the kind of bid that Liverpool couldn’t have accepted even if they actually had wanted to sell the player. It was an offer to start negotiations on, not to end them, and certainly there was nothing about the bid that would make Liverpool reconsider when Barcelona threatened to walk following the rejection of it.
With all that in mind, it’s difficult to say what Barcelona’s real purpose was. Could their board have been so misguided as to think Liverpool would or could actually accept such a derisory offer? Did they think Coutinho’s agitation would be enough to force Liverpool to take such a bad deal—and this late in the window?
Or was it misdirection for their own fans, Coutinho and Liverpool used to get them to accept the purchase of a star like Seri rather than a superstar? And what now will happen to their pursuit of Ousmane Dembélé? It’s certain Dortmund will not be bullied into taking a deal as bad as what Liverpool were offered, either.
For Liverpool, meanwhile, the focus now turns to trying to figure out how to reintegrate a player who embarked on a scorched earth policy in his attempts to force through a move—using his representatives to attack the manager and handing in a transfer request timed to do the most damage possible to their European hopes.
The most obvious answer to that might be found at Paris Saint-Germain, who held Marco Verrattii the same way Liverpool now appear to have held Coutinho. In his case, the player fired his agent and signed a new contract as a way to bring him back into the fold. Coutinho may now have to do the same.