Barcelona plan new move for Coutinho

Span­ish gi­ants ready to re­vive chase in Jan­uary Liver­pool stand­ing firm after sum­mer bids failed

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Chris Bas­combe

Barcelona have sig­nalled their in­tent to re­vive ef­forts to sign Liver­pool’s Philippe Coutinho when the trans­fer win­dow opens in Jan­uary.

The Span­ish club failed with three bids for Coutinho last sum­mer, the last worth £115mil­lion.

Liver­pool in­sisted there was no price that would force a sale and that will not change while they are com­pet­ing to meet their ob­jec­tives this cam­paign, par­tic­u­larly as Jur­gen Klopp looks to se­cure a place in the knock­out stage of the Champions League.

De­spite Liver­pool’s stance, Os­car Grau, Barcelona’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, re­vealed his club’s plans to try again – al­though he said Barcelona would still need to sell play­ers to raise funds.

“We are ready to buy Coutinho in the win­ter market, or any player the tech­ni­cal staff re­quest,” Grau said. “But it is im­por­tant to ad­just our­selves, so if there are to be ar­rivals, there must be ex­its as well. We must forget about the price paid for Ney­mar last sum­mer. After taxes, we re­ceived about €188 mil­lion [£169 mil­lion] in in­come and a di­rect fi­nan­cial im­pact on the club’s trea­sury of €144mil­lion.”

Liver­pool will be un­happy with the lat­est pub­lic courting of their star player, par­tic­u­larly as they re­peat­edly warned Barcelona off mak­ing un­wanted ap­proaches.

Barcelona have unashamedly ig­nored any pro­to­col re­gard­ing the il­le­gal ap­proach to the player. Liver­pool’s re­luc­tance to make a for­mal com­plaint to Fifa at this stage may have some­thing to do with their own re­cent prob­lems in this par­tic­u­larly shad­owy area of trans­fer ac­tiv­ity – they would un­doubt­edly be ac­cused of hypocrisy – but, by any def­i­ni­tion, the chase of Coutinho sug­gests Fifa reg­u­la­tions can be flouted at will by the La Liga club.

Since last sum­mer, Barcelona have not only spoken openly about their de­sire to sign Coutinho, but it has been widely re­ported in Spain that they had an agree­ment in place with him de­spite never be­ing granted per­mis­sion to ne­go­ti­ate terms with the player – a clear con­tra­ven­tion of trans­fer rules.

Such “tap­ping up” has been de­scribed as scan­dalous when ap­plied in the Pre­mier League – and would in­evitably prompt an in­ves­ti­ga­tion – but in the global trans­fer market, Barcelona would ap­pear ca­pa­ble of fol­low­ing a dif­fer­ent set of rules.

Coutinho, who will re­turn to train­ing with Brazil­ian in­ter­na­tional team-mate Roberto Firmino to­day, missed the start of the sea­son after Barcelona’s sum­mer bids, the at­tacker cit­ing a back prob­lem.

Since re­turn­ing to the Liver­pool line-up he has been in fine form, scor­ing in three con­sec­u­tive fix­tures.

Klopp’s de­pen­dency on his play­maker has in­creased fol­low­ing the loss of Sa­dio Mane for the next six weeks.

Barcelona’s state­ment raises the prospect of an­other month of dis­rup­tion in Jan­uary, as Coutinho has made no se­cret of his long-term as­pi­ra­tion to move to the Nou Camp.

Mean­while, Liver­pool may not learn how much they must pay for Do­minic Solanke un­til the new year as the Pre­mier League has not yet set a date for a tri­bunal hear­ing with Chelsea.

Solanke moved from Stam­ford Bridge to An­field last sum­mer as his con­tract ex­pired in Lon­don, but the champions are en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion for los­ing an academy player.

Wanted man: Barcelona are pur­su­ing Coutinho (right) to re­place his Brazil team-mate Ney­mar, who switched to Paris Saint-ger­main in a world-record trans­fer deal

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