Neil Humphreys: Keep Coutinho to keep Klopp
To match manager's ambition, Liverpool must not sell Brazilian star to Barcelona
Barring any unforeseen emergencies, Philippe Coutinho should be sitting comfortably in a private jet right now.
He's on his way back to Liverpool, keeping Roberto Firmino company as the Brazilian pair swop a World Cup qualifier in Sao Paulo for a Merseyside Derby at Anfield.
The expensive gesture isn't a tokenistic one, but a statement of intent. Liverpool must pacify their prince, whatever the cost.
Barcelona are circling. And the Catalans get what they want.
Their time-honoured tradition of placing leaks with favoured newspapers and sending out feelers, via their established stars, has already begun.
Before Brazil's game against Paraguay this morning (Singapore time), Neymar suddenly professed his undying admiration for his countryman.
Coutinho was the one, the unique one, the only English Premier League player Neymar would consider playing with.
Coutinho and Barcelona were a match made in marketing heaven, quite literally, with a clear campaign to woo the Brazilian to the Nou Camp.
The dastardly scheme even has a name. Operation Coutinho. That was the front-page headline in Sport, the popular Spanish daily.
Neymar was rolled out not once, but twice, to extol the virtues of Liverpool's left-sided wizard, seemingly out of the blue.
But nothing is random at Barcelona. Everything is orchestrated.
Their king is close to the end. Andres Iniesta has one foot in immortality and the other in retirement. A succession policy is in place. Get Coutinho.
So Liverpool's private jet has the short-term benefit of getting their Brazilian boys back in Merseyside in time for Saturday's Derby, but the expensive trip also spreads the love.
The American owners, the Fenway Sports Group, are reiterating their desire to keep their fleet-footed maverick happy.
But how determined are they?
Recent transfer dealings with Barcelona only add to the unease among the Liverpool faithful.
Losing one Spanish-speaking genius was painful enough. Losing a second would lead even Juergen Klopp to question the club's commitment.
I would sign him. Of all my Brazilian teammates, he's the player I see playing in Barcelona.Neymar on his Brazilian teammate philippe Coutinho
Coutinho's £150,000 (S$261,000)-a-week deal makes him the Reds' highest-paid player, but the financial small print matters about as much as it did to Luis Suarez.
Klopp's Liverpool must succeed where Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool failed, by matching the personal ambition of their restless South American superstar.
The Fenway Sports Group needs to attract players who come close to rivalling the calibre of both Coutinho and Klopp.
Their infamous "transfer committee" was dismantled in ignominious circumstances after signing the kind of mediocrity usually found in a $2 shop. Klopp has devoted too much time on improving inferior players or selling off those beyond saving.
Taken at face value, the task of keeping Coutinho appears straightforward as he has emphasised his family's happiness in Liverpool.
But that was before the Catalans came calling.
Barcelona's recent record in signing authentic heavyweights is equalled only by Liverpool's inability to keep theirs.
And the Fenway Sports Group has displayed a sudden reticence when it comes to spending money.
Perhaps wary of getting their fingers burnt a second time after the transfer committee fiasco, the Reds spent little in pre-season and nothing at all in January.
Klopp was forced to work miracles with versatile veterans and academy kids.
But the stop-gap measure isn't sustainable beyond the season and it's not a big stretch to suggest Klopp's long-term template depends on Coutinho.
Klopp's personal magnetism was considered an essential contribution, a tractor beam to pull in passing stars.
If he can't keep Coutinho, he can't be expected to sign a replacement of similar pedigree if the funds aren't forthcoming.
Klopp came to work with players like Coutinho, not to sell them. At the moment, Coutinho is a freakish anomaly in the dressing room.
Firmino might share the air miles on the journey home, but not the airtime in Ronald Koeman's team talk.
The Everton manager will focus on the most malignant presence, the Red with the blessed ability to kill with a gentle touch.
Coutinho has never lost a Merseyside Derby, scoring twice in seven appearances. Koeman will respect Liverpool. But he'll fear Coutinho.
So should the Fenway Sports Group.
Liverpool's owners need to provide more than a private jet to impress the Brazilian. Reputable reinforcements are required.
Coutinho needs to be the first among near equals, an attacking fulcrum surrounded by like-minded creators.
Or he'll be leaving on a jet plane again, with Barcelona footing the bill.