Barcelona’s pursuit of Philippe Coutinho was the worst summer drama since season five of Game of Thrones, but in the aftermath, we’re beginning to get a better picture of what exactly occurred.
Spoilers: Barcelona lied.
Emails obtained by German newspaper Der Spiegel confirm Liverpool’s side of the story, with Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards politely declining Barca’s interest in their superstar, saying, "Unfortunately, Philippe can not be sold at any price and, as you know, he has recently extended his contract with us."
When the final bid of around €90m plus add-ons was received in August, Edwards once again emailed Barcelona chairman Òscar Grau to say, “I ask you amicably to stop harassing Coutinho publicly and privately. No amount of money will change our minds."
What eagle-eyed viewers might notice in that response was the lack of the infamous €200m price tag that Barcelona executives claim the Reds put on Coutinho. Because that never happened. Because he was never for sale at any price. And Barcelona lied.
Also of particular note in these leaked documents are some of the personal terms agreed by Coutinho. The contract guaranteed that the Brazilian would have earned €115m over the course of his five year deal — which is...a lot. Math tells me that’s early €23m/year that Barca were willing to dole out for his services.
Helps to understand why Coutinho was so willing to make a fuss in order to get his move. But you might be wondering: if Barca were so invested in Coutinho that they were willing to pay him a huge salary, then why didn’t they come in with a decent bid for him?
While much was made in the media about the club’s “astronomical” €150m bid for the player, the truth was that this number included some ridiculously difficult to achieve add-ons, and the actual fixed amount the were willing to offer for Coutinho only hit around €72m. Strange, right?
The answer to this conundrum can also be found in the contract, which guarantees Coutinho’s agent, noted sleaze-monger Kia Joorabchian, a €25m fee from Coutinho’s sale — only on the condition that Liverpool agree to sell him for less than €100m fixed.
This is probably a well-worn tactic in the world of sports trading, but it goes a long way to explaining why his agent urged Coutinho to lash out and try to hurt Liverpool in order to force a move at, given the cirumstances, an unacceptably low price. Why suddenly, unidentified family members of Coutinho were revealing previously-unknown resentments between Coutinho and Klopp. If Barca had really ponied up the €150m like they claimed to, then Joorabchian would not have received his cut for services rendered.
While Liverpool made it clear time and again, most recently in these leaked emails, that Coutinho hadn’t been for sale at any price, the lowball bids, ‘mes que un club’ bullying mentality, constant lying to a gullible and complicit Catalan media, and underhanded tactics meant to unsettle the player and fracture his relationship with club were enough to leave a permanent bad taste in ones mouth.
Coutinho is a great player. Great clubs want great players. FC Barcelona is a great club. But the way they tried to push this through was insulting to Liverpool and made for an incredibly frustrating summer.