Barcelona tried to sign Philippe Coutinho last summer but relied more on bullying tactics and unsettling the player than offering fair market value, never putting up more than £82M guaranteed despite their incessant claims of interest in the player. Liverpool rightly baulked—not only was it too little, but it came too late.
Barcelona’s interest came too late for Liverpool to have properly reinvested the money, even if Barcelona hadn’t taken to making derisory offers while releasing stories through the Catalan press about their magnanimous offers—an approach that in the end only served to further set Liverpool’s stance against dealing with them.
Six months, though, can change things. Six months were what it took for Liverpool to get a deal done to sign Virgil van Dijk, and six months may have been what it took for Coutinho’s representatives to soften Liverpool’s stance. At least according to Goal’s Melissa Reddy, who claims that the club may now be open to dealing.
If they are, though, it will be on their terms both financially—a British record transfer fee and a fee that would eclipse every fee paid for a player bar Neymar’s triggered release clause of last summer—and when it comes to the timing of when Coutinho leaves. And that means no mid-season departure for Coutinho.
Reddy says that if Barcelona can submit a large enough offer and are willing to not see Coutinho officially move until the summer, a deal is now at least possible. The Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce agrees that “a deal this month for July might just suit all parties.” It would have to be done on Liverpool’s terms, though.
There are, potentially, some downsides in even being willing to cut a delayed deal, of course. Liverpool agreed just such a deal as the buying club with RB Leipzig last summer for Naby Keïta, but in that case a pending release clause was key in forcing the German club to consider the unusual pre-agreed transfer.
No such pressure exists for Liverpool here, and if Coutinho’s stellar play so far this season has been in part motivated by a desire to keep his Barcelona dreams alive rather than seeing the Catalan club move on to other targets, doing a deal now could see Coutinho’s effort and form dip and Liverpool suffer for it.
There’s also the fact that a strong second half to the season and World Cup could see Coutinho’s value increase even further and perhaps get a club like PSG or Real Madrid move for him, sparking a bidding war. Those all appear risks, good reasons why Liverpool could end up looking foolish if they cut a deal now.
On the flip side, agreeing a deal for his departure at the end of the season would at least remove a significant distraction; would put to rest questions of whether the player was injured or on strike to force a move. And it might, depending on what has been discussed, be a way to placate him for six more months.
Regardless, it appears Liverpool’s stance has changed from the summer—they’re now willing to at least talk to Barcelona about a Coutinho deal. But the player won’t be leaving this month, and if a deal is struck it will be for a fee far greater than anything Barcelona tabled last summer.