Exclusive – Liverpool have first refusal on former star Philippe Coutinho, who is likely to be sold by Barcelona this summer to free up funds for new arrivals. However, the Reds are unlikely to take up their option.
Coutinho became Liverpool’s record sale in January 2018 – and one of the most expensive footballers of all time – when he signed for Barcelona in a deal worth up to €140m, including add-ons.
While Liverpool have gone from strength to strength without the Brazilian, Coutinho’s stock has nosedived in the last two years as he has struggled to establish himself at Camp Nou.
Barcelona have set Lautaro Martinez and, of course, Neymar as their ambitious summer transfer targets but will need to sell as much deadwood as possible to facilitate either deal and are desperate to offload chief misfit Coutinho.
A source has told 90min that Liverpool, who have already received most of the payout from the initial transfer to Barcelona including add-ons, still have first refusal on Coutinho, who scored 54 times in 201 appearances for the Reds between 2012 and 2018.
However, Jürgen Klopp’s side have little appetite for a spectacular Coutinho return, with big-money marquee deals not likely in the upcoming transfer window.
Earlier this year, 90min learned that Liverpool do not want to spend simply for the sake of it, despite their strong financial position and obvious pulling power, and will continue to look for smart business in the market.
With a host of burgeoning talents at the club like Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones, it is understood that the club do not want to do anything that would impinge on their progress.
That said, the most likely summer addition remains Timo Werner, with whom Klopp was supposed to meet prior to the coronavirus lockdown.
The German attacker would provide an extra dimension up front and help provide depth in the likely absences of Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah during next year’s scheduled Africa Cup of Nations.
Meanwhile, Coutinho – who Barcelona still hope to recoup around £100m from – is keen to return to England, while Chelsea have made contact in recent months.
More surprisingly, Everton are also among the clubs to have been offered the chance to sign the 27-year-old. However, the cost of the deal and the player’s Liverpool associations may make the deal impossible even for the ultra-ambitious Toffees owner Farhad Moshiri – who has strong connections with Coutinho’s agent and fellow Iranian Kia Joorabchian.
Barça have previously been linked with Everton’s Richarlison – who could be used in any part-exchange deal – but are now focussed on Inter’s Martinez as their primary attacking target.