London (AFP) – Liverpool insisted on Friday that Philippe Coutinho would not be sold at any price amid reports the Brazil star has submitted a transfer request in a bid to force a move to Barcelona.
Coutinho is Barcelona’s top target to replace Neymar following the striker’s world record move to Paris Saint-Germain.
After having two previous offers rejected, the Spanish club are believed to have increased their bid for the Liverpool forward to £90 million ($117 million, 99 million euros).
Liverpool are determined to hang onto Coutinho no matter what offer Barca make, but the 25-year-old is keen to move to the Camp Nou and reports on Friday claimed he tried to push his club into letting him leave by sending an email containing the official transfer request.
Coutinho’s demand is believed to have been rejected by Liverpool, who only hours earlier had gone public with their intent to keep the playmaker at all costs.
A statement issued by Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s US-based owners, said: “We wish to offer clarity as regards our position on a possible transfer of Philippe Coutinho.
“The club’s definitive stance is that no offers for Philippe will be considered and he will remain a member of Liverpool Football Club when the summer (transfer) window closes.”
FSG’s statement was an endorsement of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s previous comments that Coutinho was not going anywhere.
And the German boss, speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool’s 2017/18 Premier League season opener away to Watford on Saturday, said: “I think if somebody, in this case FSG, is saying something like this it is the statement.
“I think I have said it already a few times, but maybe that’s not 100 percent clear.”
Liverpool launched their PR offensive at the same time as Sky Sports News reported a member of Coutinho’s family had released a statement stating the player’s case.
“Philippe has tried very hard to find an amicable solution to this situation but to no avail,” the statement read.
“He has tremendous love for the club and its fans but, like Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez have pointed out in the past, Liverpool does not let its players leave on amicable terms.”
Coutinho, who joined Liverpool from Inter Milan for £8.5 million in 2013, signed a new five-year contract with the northwest side in January that did not include a buy-out clause.
Barcelona want Coutinho to replace Neymar following his compatriot’s 222 million-euro transfer to PSG last week.
They had two previous bids rejected by the Premier League side but could yet come back with an offer in excess of £100 million.
Barca believe Coutinho can step in for Neymar alongside Lionel Messi and former Liverpool favourite Luis Suarez in a star-studded front three, and could also provide cover for 33-year-old Andres Iniesta in midfield.
– Coutinho out of Watford opener –
Although five-time European champions, most recently in 2005, the last of Liverpool’s 18 English league titles came in 1990 — before the start of the Premier League era.
Klopp, however, is determined to show he is serious about bringing back the glory days to Anfield by retaining Coutinho, Liverpool’s top scorer with 14 goals in all competitions last season when the Merseysiders finished fourth.
But Coutinho will be missing from the Watford match with a back problem that could also rule him out of the first leg of the Champions League play-off away to German club Hoffenheim on Tuesday.
Asked if Coutinho would play at Vicarage Road on Saturday, Klopp replied: “No, he has back problems. He was not in training since last Friday. No he is not available, he is also a doubt for Tuesday, unfortunately.”
Questioned on whether his job now was to keep Coutinho happy, Klopp added: “I can’t keep players happy. That’s how life is.
“It’s not about this, Phil is not available for us, that’s the biggest issue that he’s not available to play.”
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