Football

Coutinho reveals Suarez role in Barcelona move

Brazilian star unveiled at Nou Camp, but will be out for three weeks due to injury

Philippe Coutinho has finally sealed his dream move to Barcelona from Liverpool, after signing a contract in a ceremony alongside Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu at the Nou Camp yesterday.

The 25-year-old Brazilian inked a five-and-a-half-year deal in a transfer believed to be worth up to 160 million euros (S$255.2m).

But he will not be able to play for his new employers for another three weeks at least, because of a thigh injury that also saw him miss Liverpool's first two matches of the year.

At a media conference yesterday, Coutinho said his move to Barca materialised partly because of his relationship with Luiz Suarez, who also left Anfield for the Nou Camp four years ago.

The Daily Mail also revealed that Suarez, with whom Coutinho played with for 18 months at Liverpool, had sorted out his living arrangements in Spain.

Coutinho was quoted as saying in The Independent: "We had a great time together (at Liverpool) and we almost won the Premier League. He is a great friend and it's an honour to play with him.

"He wrote to me a lot, we always talked and having a friend like him at the club helped me come.

"He told me the city and players were incredible."

However, he was also quick to stress that he was not there to become the next Neymar.

His compatriot sensationally left Barca for French Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain for a world record 222 million euros last year.

Said Coutinho: "I play with Neymar for Brazil and we've been friends for years...

"We're different players. He is obviously a great player but we have different qualities."

Barcelona have been in rip-roaring form this season, and have established a nine-point lead at the top of the table after 18 games.

But Coutinho insisted that the job is not done yet.

He said: "They (the EPL and La Liga) are both difficult leagues. Every country has its own difficulties.

"I try and play football and I want to adapt as fast as possible and be happy here...

"It's a long season. Nothing is over. We have to be focused in every game so the distance (to their rivals) continues."

Coutinho also took the chance to thank his former club.

Speaking about the many months of negotiations before the deal was sealed, he said of Liverpool: "They tried everything to keep me. I have to thank them for understanding that this was my dream and that of my family.

"They were men of their word with me and I gave them everything. It was the right time to come here."

RELEASE CLAUSE

The swoop for Coutinho - which contains a 400 million-euro release clause - is the third-biggest transfer in football history, reported AFP.

It is outranked only by PSG's signing of Neymar, and PSG's capture of French striker Kylian Mbappe for a deal that will eventually be worth 180 million euros.

Suarez said: "Everybody knows about (Coutinho's) quality. He has been playing at the highest level for years now and that is important.

"Now we need to make sure he feels at home because we know that changing clubs is always difficult, but I think he is the type of player who will fit well into the team."

Coach Ernesto Valverde admitted that it will be a challenge shoehorning his new recruit into a squad which is flying at the moment.

"Coutinho is a player who I think can bring a lot to us," said Valverde.

"He's an important signing. I have seen him play in various positions - on the right, the left, in the middle, on the wings.

"We will evaluate all of this... but, of course, I don't think he will play as a goalkeeper!"

Football