Liverpool’s resolve to keep Philippe Coutinho remains intact despite their anger at the Brazilian’s attempt to force a move to Barcelona by emailing a transfer request. Coutinho’s demand to leave was rejected by Liverpool as relations soured between the playmaker and club on the eve of the new Premier League season.
The Brazil international emailed a transfer request on Friday to Liverpool’s sporting director, Michael Edwards, in direct response to a statement from the club’s owner, Fenway Sports Group, that he will not be sold this summer. Barcelona have had two bids of £72m and £90m rejected for the 25-year-old in recent weeks and are expected to return with a third in light of Coutinho, who signed a five-year contract in January, agitating for a transfer.
The Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, and club officials are seething over a move that has overshadowed the start of their season at Watford on Saturday. Coutinho is unhappy that FSG has refused to negotiate with the Spanish giants over a possible transfer and publicly stated he will not be sold at any price in this window. Equally there is anger on the club’s part that Coutinho submitted a transfer request having been told in face-to-face meetings with the owners and Klopp that such a move would not be entertained.
The FSG president, Mike Gordon, held talks with the Brazilian last week in Munich, where Liverpool were competing in the Audi Cup, to reiterate the owner’s determination to keep him at Anfield. Klopp had a similar conversation with the player in Hong Kong after Barcelona’s opening bid was dismissed, with Coutinho and his agent, Kia Joorabchian, being made aware of FSG’s resolve throughout the summer.
Liverpool’s owner went public with that resolve on Friday when it issued a statement that reflected what Klopp has said repeatedly about Coutinho’s future. “We wish to offer clarity as regards our position on a possible transfer of Philippe Coutinho,” it said. “The club’s definitive stance is that no offers for Philippe will be considered and that he will remain a member of Liverpool Football Club when the summer window closes.”
Coutinho retaliated a few hours later by emailing Edwards. A “family friend” of Liverpool’s No10 was then quoted by Sky Sports News as saying: “Philippe has tried very hard to find an amicable solution to the situation but to no avail. He has tremendous love for the club and its fans but, like Steven Gerrard and Luis Suárez have pointed out in the past, Liverpool does not let its players leave on amicable terms.”
The transfer request caught Liverpool completely by surprise given their conversations with Coutinho and the fact that, while expressing a wish to join Barcelona, he had not agitated for a move before the FSG statement.
The player reported as normal on Friday to Melwood where he received treatment on the back injury that has ruled him out of the Watford opener and possibly Tuesday’s Champions League play-off first leg against Hoffenheim. Liverpool expect him to act professionally despite having the transfer request rejected.
At a press conference to preview the Watford game, held before Edwards’ inbox received Coutinho’s email, Klopp admitted: “I can’t keep players happy” but later expressed confidence his prized asset would not push for a transfer.
The manager said: “I have known him for 20 months and that’s the only thing I can say about this [he wouldn’t agitate for a move]. There is actually nothing else to say about it. The player is not in team training. I don’t go to the medical department every day and ask things like that. It is completely normal. Nobody comes to me every day and says: ‘Oh my God! Phil!’ We speak about the injury. That is all.”
Klopp also reiterated his belief that Barcelona moved too late in the transfer window for Liverpool even to consider selling Coutinho. “Talking in general, I had to sell a lot of players in my managerial career. Some had clauses, some had no clauses; we had the Lewandowski thing and that was difficult when he went to Bayern on a free transfer. A lot of different things.
“The only thing I can say about this is that in life everything is about timing – whichever club asks early enough. It’s like how we do it. If we ask early enough, we try to do it. If you ask early enough, you can either switch the plan or whatever. But you cannot come up close to the start of the season with things like this.
“The club is bigger than anybody. That is the most important thing. It’s about doing it in the right moment. It’s how we do it when we want to bring players in. It is about timing. That is how I understand. And that is all I have to say. Maybe everybody has a price – in the right moment. In the wrong moment? No price.”