Philippe Coutinho is flying to Barcelona to finalise his €160 million (£142m) move to the Catalan giants after Liverpool finally agreed an extraordinary deal to sell the Brazil international.
The fee is the biggest ever received by a British club – as well as the biggest ever paid by a Spanish one – and is the third-highest ever in the world after Neymar’s world record €222m (£197m) move to Paris Saint-Germain and the €180m (£160m) the French club are also paying for Kylian Mbappe.
The deal was agreed on Saturday afternoon after months of delicate negotiations, with Barcelona paying a significant portion of the money up-front and then a number of guaranteed add-ons. Importantly, it means Liverpool will eventually receive the full €160m.
A statement from Liverpool read: “Liverpool FC can confirm Philippe Coutinho will be leaving the club after a transfer agreement was reached with FC Barcelona, subject to medical and agreement of personal terms.
“The player now has permission to complete the usual formalities to conclude the transfer immediately.”
It is possible that Coutinho – who is set to sign a five-and-a-half-year deal with a €400m buy-out clause – will attend Barcelona’s match at the Nou Camp against Levante on Sunday afternoon. If everything goes smoothly, the 25 year-old could then train with his new team-mates on Monday and even be available to make his Barca debut in the Copa del Rey against Celta Vigo on Thursday evening.
Earlier, Coutinho withdrew from the Liverpool squad that is heading to Dubai for a few days’ break after their FA Cup victory over Everton on Friday evening, for which he was officially injured.
The astonishing deal concludes a long-running transfer saga, with the Brazilian having hoped he would move to Barcelona last summer following Neymar’s departure. At the time, Liverpool refused to sell with owners Fenway Sports Group taking the unusual step of releasing a statement declaring that the player would not be allowed to go in that transfer window.
Since then, though, Liverpool have softened their stance and negotiations have been helped by the understanding approach taken by Coutinho’s representative, Kia Joorabchian, who has been heavily involved throughout the talks.
Relations between all parties, therefore, remained amicable and it is regarded as a good deal for everyone involved with Liverpool reasoning that the impact made by Mohamed Salah, and the form of other players such as Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino – plus the return to fitness of Adam Lallana – has made them less dependent on Coutinho.
The club also accepts that it is Coutinho’s dream to move to Barcelona and, ultimately, they did not want to stand in his way, especially as they have reached a price – and the terms – they deem acceptable.
Nevertheless, Liverpool had hoped to persuade Coutinho to remain until the end of this season, especially as he cannot play Champions League football for Barcelona, and with both clubs in the last 16, but he was determined to go as soon as possible.
After the agreement with Barca was confirmed, Jurgen Klopp told the club’s official website: “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.
“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.
“Despite that, we managed to keep the player here beyond the summer window, hoping that we would be able to persuade him to stay and be part of what we are looking to do.
“I can tell the Liverpool supporters that we, as a club, have done everything within our means to convince Philippe that remaining part of LFC was as attractive as moving to Spain, but he is 100 per cent certain his future – and that of his family – belongs at Barcelona. It is his dream and I am now convinced there is nothing left at our disposal to change his mind.
“Philippe has made a fantastic contribution to this club over his five years of service and as disappointed as we are he doesn’t want to extend that, the relationship we have for him means with a heavy heart we wish him well.
“The player remained dedicated and committed to helping us win matches, producing good performances and training hard each day at Melwood after the summer window had closed, despite failing to convince us to allow him to leave during that period and that level of professionalism reflects positively on him.
“Of course, it is totally understandable that supporters will be disappointed; this is always the case when you have to say goodbye to someone special. But, as hard as it is sometimes to accept, it is part of life and part of football – individuals have their own dreams and their own goals and objectives in life.
“Players will come and players will go, that is football, but as a club we are big enough and strong enough to continue with our aggressive progression on the pitch, even when we lose an important player. We have never been in a better position in recent times, as a club, to react in the right way. We will use our size and strength to absorb moments like this and still move forward.
“I have been here long enough now to know in the history of Liverpool, key players have left before – but the club always goes on. You cannot transfer the heart and soul of Liverpool Football Club, although I am sure there are many clubs who would like to buy it.
“I have so much belief in the talent we have here already and even more faith, together with our owners, that we will make continued investment into the playing squad, which will allow more growth and more improvement.
“So as we bid farewell to Philippe, we continue on our path of progress and development as we work towards our common goal of bringing trophies back to Anfield.”
As revealed by Telegraph Sport, Liverpool spent a world-record fee for a defender recently when they signed Virgil van Dijk – who made his match-winning debut against Everton – from Southampton for £75m.
However, Liverpool did not have to sell Coutinho to ‘balance the books’ and they will target a replacement for their playmaker. It remains to be seen, though, whether that can be done during this window.
They attempted to sign Monaco’s Thomas Lemar last summer but were out-bid by Arsenal, although the France international eventually opted to stay with Monaco. It is understood that he would be interested in moving to Liverpool – and Arsenal also retain a strong interest, especially if they sell Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City – but Monaco are insisting they will not let him go before the end of the season. They fear they will miss out on qualifying for Champions League football if they do.
Reports in France have linked Liverpool with a move for Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez, but this has been strongly rejected by senior sources at Anfield who say they have no interest in the Algerian international.