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The Ongoing Philippe Coutinho Transfer Saga, Explained

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Short version: it’s Catalan hope and bullshit.

Liverpool v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Stories about Philippe Coutinho just won’t stop rumbling up out of Spain. It’s almost a daily occurrence at this point. A few questionable sources shout that a deal is really done this time and he’ll be unveiled within a day or two, they get picked up by others and amplified and eventually make it into a few English tabloids.

Then, an hour or two later, the slightly more reliable people—people who might be credited with actual insight into Barcelona’s situation—walk the stories back. No, they’ll say, a deal isn’t done. Coutinho, though, would like to play for Barcelona and the club are trying to make it happen but Liverpool don’t want to sell.

Meanwhile, those connected to Liverpool and the club itself appear largely unbothered. Jürgen Klopp and the owners insist Coutinho will not be sold and that they are not concerned the player will do anything to force a sale in the coming weeks; that while Coutinho may leave at some point, but it won’t be this summer.

The strongest talk from Spain and the Catalan press, though, came last week, on Wednesday, when Mundo Deportivo and Sport and a handful of moderately respected journalists—Gerard Romero of Radio Catalunya and Brazilian reporter Marcelo Bechler—all said a deal was near. A few said it’d happen before Monday.

It sounded like the kind of stuff that usually comes from the mouths of Twitter ITKs, chancers who throw out dates for transfers most people believe could happen and when those dates arrive and nothing does they make excuses and name a new date. Well, Monday is here now and a deal clearly hasn’t happened.

In fact a deal to take Coutinho is no closer than it was last week and last week it was no closer than the week before. Meanwhile Liverpool, Klopp, and the owners continue to insist they will not sell at any price and that they are not concerned that Coutinho will force his way out of the club, certainly not this summer.

The situation isn’t really that hard to figure out if one can sort through the noise emerging daily from the Catalan press. Coutinho or his agent was likely approached by Barcelona and asked if he would be open to a move to Barcelona. He said yes, which is neither particularly surprising or bothersome.

Yet it’s clear Coutinho also isn’t unhappy at Liverpool or inclined to agitate for a move. If Liverpool wanted to sell and a fee could be agreed than, yes, he would go to Barcelona. But he won’t fight for it, and if a deal cannot be agreed, he’s happy to remain at the club as Liverpool head back into the Champions League.

Liverpool, then, won’t sell, and so that’s the end of it. Or at least it should be. But with Barcelona scrambling following the departure of Neymar, the Catalan club and their associated journalists are more panicked than usual, and that shows in the fact that they’re still chasing after Coutinho hoping something changes.

Meanwhile, Liverpool fans would do well to remember that in past cases where the club’s biggest players have wanted out, owners Fenway Sports Group have taken a strong line—right back to their first transfer window in charge when they forced Fernando Torres to put in a transfer request to get his £50M move to Chelsea.

Then, with Luis Suarez, they refused to negotiate with Arsenal when they triggered a good faith release clause in the player’s contract. The club sent him to train on his own before eventually getting him to commit to another year. It took a World Cup biting incident for them to finally decide he was more trouble than he was worth.

Which brings us back to Coutinho, a consummate professional the club aren’t worried will agitate for a move that would leave them in a terrible position this late in the window. There is no fee at which a sale would be done this summer. A few more “deadlines” may have to pass before the Catalan press figure that out, though.