Barcelona are ready to pay as much as £140 million to break Liverpool’s resolve to keep Philippe Coutinho as the January push to secure the Brazilian gathers momentum.
The Spanish side hope an initial payment of £105 million, with a £35 million in add-ons based on appearances and success at the Nou Camp, will make Coutinho the third most expensive footballer in history behind Paris Saint Germain duo Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
Liverpool, however do not want to sell the 25-year-old and are making strenuous efforts to keep him. Despite ongoing talks, the player remains intent on heading to the Nou Camp in January.
Liverpool are not chasing replacements at this stage, as they have made no contact with Monaco regarding summer target Thomas Lemar, and are focusing on convincing Coutinho he can achieve Champions League ambitions at Anfield in 2018. At the moment, they are not succeeding in persuading him.
Manager Jurgen Klopp has again refused to guarantee Coutinho will stay. He did insist, however, the transfer saga will not cast a shadow over Liverpool’s upcoming games.
Coutinho and Mohamed Salah will be notable absentees in Friday’s FA Cup Third Round with Everton, as both injured, even as Klopp insists Coutinho’s situation won’t become a distraction.
Klopp chose his words carefully on Coutinho’s future. He said, “I am not interested in Barcelona. Sorry. What can I say about what they do?”
“It is always the same. This year it is Phil. Another year it is somebody else. There is nothing to say until there is something to say. That is my position. What can I do? I cannot talk about this part of the game. You discuss it but we cannot be part of the discussion. You can write what you want, you can interpret whatever I say.”
Given Barcelona’s interest in Coutinho first surfaced in July, Klopp rejected the suggestion it would be a distraction to his squad.
He said, “They are professional football players. Sometimes they are in the middle of the story and sometimes they are sat next to the guy in the dressing room who is in the middle of the story.”
“These young boys are used to this from a really early age and are used to ignoring things around them. If they are smart enough they ignore most of it. All the stories around are no problem.”
“This story is not around since yesterday. It has been around since the summer and did you at any moment get the impression this team is distracted because of transfer rumours? No. We are focused on what we have an influence on. All the rest we have to ignore. It is clear there is a lot of excitement around.”
Not even the startling error of Barcelona’s kit sponsors prematurely advertising the sale of Coutinho shirts has riled Klopp.
He said, “All the social media things I will never get. The importance of it I will never get.”
“In football, in the world of news, the next day they will chase another pig in the village. That is a German saying. You talk about today and then tomorrow this.”
“What can I say about Nike? I do not know any person from Nike to tell them it is not okay you do something like that. It is not my cup of tea. I am not interested. I am interested in what we do that is best for us. It can be this way or that way. That is all. And all the stories around? You cannot imagine how cool life is when ignoring them. They are not important. They are entertaining.”
Liverpool’s immediate priority is a Merseyside derby. Loris Karius will start and Virgil Van Dijk should at least make the squad, Klopp considering whether to give his £75 million centre-back a debut.
Klopp will not take the opportunity to make the kind of changes that earned broad criticism when Liverpool made an early exit against Wolves a year ago, as he said, “The line-up will be a line-up which shows all the respect we have for the FA Cup.”