Coutinho is perfect replacement for Neymar
Liverpool star is the only choice to replace Neymar should he leave Barca
Liverpool may get a taste of their own medicine and it will taste foul.
The Reds stand accused of bullying lesser clubs in recent months, but there's always a bigger bully in the playground.
And none come bigger than Barcelona.
If they've got their eye on Philippe Coutinho, they will get Philippe Coutinho.
One errant Brazilian is forcing them to target an elegant Brazilian in Liverpool.
Barcelona's narrow 3-2 victory over Real Madrid at the International Champions Cup yesterday morning (Singapore time) only underlined their reliance upon Neymar.
The 25-year-old proved his worth with two fine assists in the friendly Clasico.
Lionel Messi offered the superior performance, but he worked in tandem with his Brazilian wingman.
Messi may be the greatest footballer of all time, but he'll be part of the greatest football club only if Neymar stays.
Should the rebel with a Parisian cause leave, Barcelona will be left a man short, needlessly handicapped in the two-horse race with a resurgent Real.
The answer, the only answer, was last seen wearing the captain's armband for Liverpool.
Coutinho led the Reds to a comfortable 3-0 victory against Hertha Berlin at the Audi Cup yesterday morning and the decision to make him skipper was not a symbolic one.
Neymar's petulance risks ruining Liverpool's plans.
Ironically, manager Juergen Klopp and new Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde find themselves in a similar position.
Their pre-season preparations were coasting along, when the shiniest of spanners threw itself into the works.
Suddenly, Neymar wants out. Suddenly, Barcelona require an urgent replacement.
Three into two doesn't go for Barcelona, not up front, not the way they play.
Incision requires incisive wingers. The Catalan giants crave men who glide inside and forage between the lines, men like Coutinho; a slightly inferior version of Neymar but a handy successor nonetheless.
So much of Barca's play drifted towards the left against Real, through Andres Iniesta and then Neymar, a creative conduit that fed Messi and Luis Suarez.
Coutinho revelled in the same role against Hertha.
Like Neymar, he floats between the wings. They are both 25, Brazilian and better than just about anyone else in their position. This is hardly a revelation but, until very recently, time appeared to be on Pool's side.
Klopp has grinned and giggled through pre-season, his infectious enthusiasm for the job lifting spirits, despite the Reds' obvious travails in the transfer market.
Two of his summer signings - Dominic Solanke and Mohamed Salah - both scored in Berlin, with Coutinho the creative fulcrum.
But Neymar threatens to napalm Liverpool's party.
Messi dominated against Real, but the 30-year-old conductor needs more than his baton next season. He needs an orchestra. Iniesta is 33, Suarez is 31 in January and Spain is no country for old men.
Cristiano Ronaldo's Indian Summer is carefully managed at Real. His match exertions are limited and controlled.
But Messi, Suarez and Iniesta's inter-passing, overlapping, pinball wizardry remain largely unchanged. The trio are not over the hill, but they are overworked.
Neymar, as he nimbly demonstrated against Real, does more than his fair share of heavy lifting. Messi can't beat the clock, but a younger, creative colleague at least allows him to take a breather.
In terms of potential replacements for Neymar, Coutinho tops a list with only one name on it. He was always destined to take the road well travelled by South Americans, the one that builds a career in the English Premier League before heading for Spain's stratosphere.
But the reason for Pool's confidence, perhaps, was Coutinho's lack of urgency. Even Jamie Carragher said this week that the Brazilian would join Barcelona - but only next year.
Like Manchester United with Ronaldo in 2008, the Reds figured they had one more season with Coutinho, allowing Klopp enough time to consolidate his relatively new squad.
But Neymar has possibly brought Barcelona's clock forward a year. His reported 222-million-euro (S$356m) transfer fee to PSG ensures that the club can meet Liverpool's greediest demands.
A fee of around £100m (S$178m) immediately becomes pocket change for Barcelona. And in one, late move, the bully risks becoming the bullied.
Southampton and RB Leipzig have already reportedly complained of Liverpool's belligerent attempts to strong-arm the clubs into selling key players.
Barcelona may be about to prove that there is always a bigger fish. Messi needs a left-sided partner, at any cost.
If Neymar heads for the bright lights of Paris, Coutinho should probably start packing.