Tuesday 25 September 2018

Jurgen Klopp pays tribute to 'good friend, wonderful person and fantastic player' Coutinho in classy farewell message

We did everything to keep him, says Klopp as Liverpool cash in

Liverpool's departing Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho Photo: Getty
Liverpool's departing Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho Photo: Getty

Jason Burt

Philippe Coutinho was last night ready to fly to Barcelona to finalise his €160m move to the Catalan giants after Liverpool finally agreed an extraordinary deal to sell the Brazilian international.

The fee is the biggest received by a British club and the biggest paid by a Spanish one. As it stands, it is the second highest ever - after Neymar's world record €222m move to Paris St-Germain - although the French club will also be paying €180m for Kylian Mbappe in the summer.

It's understood the fee for Coutinho - who cost just £8.5m from Inter Milan in 2013 - will consist of an initial €120m, with a further €40m hinging on add-ons. Barcelona said the buy-out fee in his new contract will be €400m. The deal was agreed yesterday afternoon after months of delicate negotiations.

A statement published on Liverpool's website last night read: "Liverpool can confirm Philippe Coutinho will be leaving the club after a transfer agreement was reached with Barcelona, subject to a medical and agreement of personal terms.

"The player now has permission to complete the usual formalities to conclude the transfer immediately."

A formal announcement is imminent and it is possible that Coutinho could attend Barcelona's match at the Nou Camp against Levante this afternoon.

The 25-year-old could then train with his new team-mates tomorrow and even be available to make his Barcelona debut in the Copa del Rey match against Celta Vigo on Thursday.

Earlier, Coutinho withdrew from the Liverpool squad who are heading to Dubai, having beaten Everton in the FA Cup on Friday evening, a game for which he was officially injured.

Coutinho had hoped to move to Barcelona last summer following Neymar's departure. But, at that time, Liverpool refused to sell, with the club's owners Fenway Sports Group unusually declaring that he would not be allowed to go in that transfer window.

Liverpool have softened their stance since then and the negotiations have been helped by the understanding approach taken by Coutinho's representative Kia Joorabchian, who has been heavily involved throughout the process.

Relations between all parties have remained amicable and the deal is regarded as a good one for everyone. Liverpool reason that the impact of Mohamed Salah, the form of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino and the return to fitness of Adam Lallana have all made them less dependent on Coutinho.

The club accept that it is Coutinho's dream to move to Barcelona and did not want to stand in his way, especially as they have reached an acceptable agreement.

Liverpool had hoped to persuade Coutinho to remain at Anfield until the end of this season, especially as he cannot play Champions League football for Barcelona. But he has been determined to go as soon as possible. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp revealed the player had been "desperate" to move to Barcelona since July.

"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," said Klopp.

"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 team-mates 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 Liverpool was as attractive as moving to Spain, but he is 100 per cent certain his future - and that of his family - belongs at Barcelona."

Liverpool paid a world-record fee for a defender when they signed Virgil van Dijk - who made his match-winning debut on Friday against Everton - from Southampton for £75m.

Meanwhile, Liverpool will comply with the English FA's investigation into allegations of racism made against Firmino after his clash with the Everton defender Mason Holgate after Friday's victory. No time-scale has been established for the inquiry.

Sunday Indo Sport

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