Mon, Jan 08, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Barca get Coutinho in near-record deal

REFUND:Liverpool said they would give a £50 voucher to fans who bought jerseys bearing the Brazilian midfielder’s name to ‘offset the effects’ of his surprise departure


Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho celebrates scoring a goal against Leicester City in Hong Kong on July 22 last year.

Photo: AP

Philippe Coutinho on Saturday finally got his wish when Barcelona agreed to sign the Brazilian star from Liverpool for 160 million euros (US$192 million) in the third-richest deal of all time.

Last year, Paris Saint-Germain shelled out a world-record 222 million euros to lure Brazilian star Neymar from Barcelona before the French champions then agreed to pay Monaco 120 million euros for Kylian Mbappe in a deal that is to officially be activated once the striker’s loan period is completed.

“It is with great reluctance that we — as a team and club — prepare to say farewell to a good friend, a wonderful person and a fantastic player in Philippe Coutinho,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told the club’s Web site. “It is no secret that Philippe has wanted this move to happen since July, when Barcelona first made their interest known. Philippe was insistent with me, the owners and even his teammates this was a move he was desperate to make happen.”

Rio-born Coutinho in January 2013 arrived at Anfield from Inter Milan for £8.5 million (US$11.5 million) and scored 54 goals for the club in all competitions, although he won no silverware during his five-year stay.

His departure is a blow to Liverpool, as the playmaker had just returned to top form after an injury-hit start to the season. He scored six goals in the last seven games of last year to put his side firmly in the Champions League places.

Coutinho on Saturday had stayed in Liverpool while his teammates jetted off to Dubai for warm-weather training, fueling speculation that he was set to leave the club.

Coutinho was expected to watch his new team host Levante yesterday afternoon at Camp Nou.

A video posted on the club Web site showed a locker bearing his name had already been reserved for their new recruit.

Coutinho’s age is attractive to Barca, whose three main stars, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta, are all in their thirties.

French media group beIN Sports late on Saturday reported that Liverpool would immediately spend 55 million euros of their windfall on Leicester striker Riyad Mahrez.

It said Mahrez was to have a medical at Liverpool yesterday before penning a four-year contract.

Liverpool have also been strongly linked with Monaco forward Thomas Lemar, who Arsenal tried to sign before the season.

“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,” he added.

Meanwhile, Liverpool later on Saturday said they would offer supporters who bought shirts bearing Coutinho’s name a £50 voucher to help offset the effects of his departure.

“Supporters should present their 2017-2018 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,” they said.

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