Monday 23 September 2019

John Giles: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho cash-in is proof they’re no longer a big club

Read John Giles every week in The Herald

Barcelona's new signing Philippe Coutinho waves on the pitch
Barcelona's new signing Philippe Coutinho waves on the pitch

John Giles

I’VE had a question in my mind about Liverpool for a few years now and whether they can still be considered a big club. It was answered for me this week when they sold Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona.

The one comment which stood out during the whole saga was at the end when the deal was done and Coutinho already moving into digs in Barcelona.

“We did everything within our means to keep Coutinho,” said Jurgen Klopp, apparently with a straight face.

Liverpool did not do everything in their power to keep Coutinho. They owned his contract. All they had to do was to refuse to sell him.

Now that would have been doing everything in their power to keep him.

I’ve asked myself the same question about the current owners of Liverpool and their ambitions for the club a few times in the past, particularly when Barcelona last set their sights on an Anfield favourite.

Liverpool stood their ground and almost won a Premier League title when they refused to allow Luis Suarez to go to Spain.


I expressed admiration for Liverpool’s owners at the time and when they eventually sold Suarez a year later, I had no problem with that.

By then, the baggage he brought with him had become so heavy, ranging from accusations of racism to his bizarre habit of biting opponents, that Liverpool didn’t have any real choice but to move him on.

I believe the Coutinho situation is different. According to Klopp, it has been the lad’s dream to play for Barcelona and therefore they could not persuade him to stay.

According to Barcelona, they got Coutinho cheap and if it’s true that the player had to fork out over £10m to make the deal happen, that certainly does not look like a club pulling out all the stops to keep their man. They are taking his money.

In fact, all they have really tried to do here is to choreograph the move in a way which would dilute the fact that Liverpool are selling one of their best players.

I believe this deal was done and a price agreed back in July and once Liverpool agreed to sell him, they made plans to spend a big chunk of the cash on Virgil van Dijk.

My instinct tells me that Coutinho was persuaded to play on after his clear disappointment at missing the boat in the August transfer window because he received a promise that he would be sold to Barcelona.

By no stretch of the imagination is that trying to hold onto a player and it seems to me that Liverpool’s performance in the title race may have triggered the move because it is an easier sell to the fans as a result.

Put it this way, I wonder if Liverpool were three points behind Manchester City and chasing for the title whether John W Henry and his partners would have agreed to sell Coutinho?

No, they would not because Coutinho is that type of gifted individual managers need to win titles and the Kop would have reacted badly.

Liverpool’s weakness for a number of seasons has been at the back and a big club’s solution to that problem would have been to buy Van Dijk and hold on to Coutinho as well.

To solve a problem in defence they sold one of their best attacking players.

That’s it in black and white. Liverpool are a selling club.

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