Football

Barcelona's claim of Coutinho discount untrue: Report

Liverpool insist they did not put a price tag on the Brazilian star during the last transfer window

Barcelona's claim that Liverpool had slashed their original asking price for Philippe Coutinho has been refuted by the Anfield outfit, according to The Telegraph.

Citing sources familiar with the negotiations, the newspaper reported that the club's American owners Fenway Sports Group had never slapped a price tag on the 25-year-old Brazilian star during the summer transfer window.

On Monday, Coutinho's 160-million-euro (S$255 million) move to the Catalan giants was officially completed, ending a long-running transfer saga. The fee made him the third-most expensive player in football history.

As the playmaker was unveiled amid much fanfare at Nou Camp, Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre claimed the Reds had given them a big discount on the asking price compared to the last transfer window, during which Liverpool reportedly turned down three bids from them.

Mestre was quoted as saying in an AFP report: "Due to a contractual issue and due to Liverpool's desire, we cannot provide the exact data, but there has been a very significant reduction (in price).

"This time, the reduction in their price was enough for us to authorise the transfer.

"We didn't want to put the club's whole economy and heritage at risk."

The comments raised many an eyebrow in the red half of Merseyside, where fans had been assured the club had tried to keep the star on their roster.

But The Telegraph yesterday reported that Liverpool had refused to negotiate with Barcelona only until recently, and that talks were successfully completed only shortly before Coutinho left.

It said that the Reds were still determined to hang on to the Brazilian during this transfer window, but eventually "relented under pressure from the player, his representatives, Barcelona and even their sponsors - sportswear giants Nike - who announced the deal prematurely at the start of the month".

Liverpool's failure to convince Coutinho to stay prompted club legend Steven Gerrard to turn to Instagram to air his emotions.

He wrote: "It hurts you have left because you are a special player, up there with the best I shared a pitch with.

"I want to wish you @phil.coutinho and your family all the best for the next stage of your career in Barcelona.

"Thank you for the special moments and memories over the last 5 years. YNWA."

Coutinho himself also penned an open letter to Liverpool fans, thanking them and the club for their support from the day he made the switch from Inter Milan as a nobody in 2013.

He wrote on Instagram: "Moving to Liverpool, I knew the club's greatness and history but what I did learn during my time was the unique heart and soul of the place.

"It has its own personality and character. I leave Liverpool because Barcelona is a dream for me.

"Liverpool was a dream that I was fortunate enough to realise and I have given five years of my life to it.

"A career on the pitch only lasts for so long and to play for Barcelona as well as Liverpool is something I want to experience and enjoy while I am blessed enough to be able to do so.

"I hope the supporters understand that choosing to experience something new is not about diminishing their importance to me or the club's importance. Nothing will ever diminish that in my heart."

Football