Football

Coutinho seals dream move to Barcelona

Brazilian star was 'desperate' to join Spanish giants, admits Liverpool manager Klopp

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp admitted that Barcelona-bound Philippe Coutinho was “desperate” to move to the La Liga giants, and had wanted to leave for Catalonia since Barca bid for the Brazilian ace last July.

Coutinho will finally make his “dream” move after being denied in the summer, with the two clubs agreeing a reported 160 million-euro (S$250 million) deal for a player that Liverpool signed in 2013 from Inter Milan for just £8.5 million (S$13 million).

The deal for the 25-year-old attacking midfielder will be the third biggest in football after the 222 million euros Paris Saint-Germain paid Barcelona for Brazilian star Neymar last year and the 120 million euros that Kylian Mbappe will cost PSG from Monaco, once the French player’s loan period with the Ligue 1 champions is completed.

A Barcelona statement said that Coutinho will sign a five-and-a-half-year contract, with a release clause of 400 million euros.

“It’s no secret that Philippe has wanted this move to happen since July, when Barcelona first made their interest known,” Klopp told the Liverpool website. “Philippe was insistent with me, the owners and even his teammates this was a move he was desperate to make happen.”

Klopp said that he had fought to keep Coutinho on Merseyside last summer, when Liverpool reportedly turned down a £138 million deadline-day bid from Barca, but that the lure of the runaway La Liga leaders was too much for the player to resist.

“We managed to keep the player here beyond the summer window, hoping that we would be able to persuade him to stay and be part of what we are looking to do,” added Klopp.

“I can tell the Liverpool supporters that we, as a club, have done everything within our means to convince Philippe that remaining part of LFC was as attractive as moving to Spain, but he is 100 per cent certain his future – and that of his family – belongs at Barcelona.

“It is his dream and I am now convinced there is nothing left at our disposal to change his mind.”

Klopp also hailed Coutinho’s “professionalism” after being denied the transfer to Spain and thanked him for his five years of service to the Premier League club.

Coutinho came to Liverpool following a poor five years as an Inter player that included an initial two-year loan spell at hometown team Vasco da Gama and then a year at Barcelona-based club Espanyol after failing to impress in Italy.

He flourished under Klopp following the German’s arrival from Borussia Dortmund in 2015, and while he didn’t win any trophies in his time at Liverpool, he did enough to attract the interest of the world’s biggest clubs.

“Philippe has made a fantastic contribution to this club over his five years of service and as disappointed as we are he doesn’t want to extend that, the relationship we have for him means with a heavy heart we wish him well,” said Klopp.

“The player remained dedicated and committed to helping us win matches, producing good performances and training hard each day at Melwood after the summer window had closed, despite failing to convince us to allow him to leave during that period and that level of professionalism reflects positively on him.” 

'LIVERPOOL GOT BETTER DEAL'

Former Liverpool defender Phil Thompson said his old club had probably got the better deal.

“It’s hard to get my head around what Philippe is going to gain because he can’t play Champions League football for them, they are running away with the league, and he’s got the World Cup at the end of the season,” Thompson said on Sky Sports.

“Will he play regularly every week at Barcelona? I’m not too sure. Philippe could have carried on (at Liverpool). He could have been playing in the Champions League.”

Meanwhile, later Saturday, Liverpool said they will offer supporters who bought shirts bearing the name of Coutinho a £50 voucher to help offset the impact of the Brazilian star’s departure.

“The offer follows today’s announcement that Coutinho will join Barcelona and reflects the exceptional circumstances behind the player’s departure,” said the club.

“Supporters should present their 2017-18 Coutinho replica shirt at any official club store where the voucher will be issued... the shirt will not be retained but proof of purchase will be required.” – AFP

Philippe Coutinholiverpoolbarcelona