Monday 17 December 2018

Here is why Barcelona want to sign Philippe Coutinho now and not in the summer

Philippe Coutinho and (inset) Iniesta
Philippe Coutinho and (inset) Iniesta

Miguel Delaney

If the feeling for many around Liverpool and Barcelona is that Philippe Coutinho's move to Camp Nou is inevitable, and so many more think it makes obvious sense to do a deal for the summer, there is then one big question from the latest development in the saga: why are the Liga leaders going so strong on it now?

Why potentially irritate who you're doing business with? Why not look to just strike the longer-term deal? Why possibly unsettle what had seemed a sensible deal?

There should be no confusion about that, as Barca are preparing a bid, even if there remains some suspicion some of this is a Catalan media campaign. As one figure close to the Barcelona hierarchy told The Independent a few days ago, "they'll try in January - as mad as it sounds".

And this is the thing. So many do find it confusing. It is the inevitable and the obvious, yet undercut by the unclear. So why?

The first reason is obviously that Coutinho himself is desperate to go. The word from those close to him is that he "would do anything in the world to get there". He's that intent on the deal now, and some of this is obviously Barca wanting to act on that great desire and have a future star as happy as possible.

Those same people close to him don't literally think he would do "anything" to get there, mind. They do not feel he would outright go on strike, despite some of the suggestions, because he will almost certainly be there by the summer either way.

That raises something about Coutinho himself, too. He isn't a Luis Suarez personality in that way. He won't just dig in and do anything possible to get his way like the Uruguayan, although Coutinho's wife Aine is hugely keen on the move.

Barca themselves aren't quite in the same situation as they were when they signed Suarez in 2014. They just aren't as flush. There is now a much greater requirement to balance the books.

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While there has been some talk that Liverpool should wait until after the World Cup because Coutinho's price might go up even more, that is then precisely what the Catalans don't want. They want to get it secured to avoid that.

Much has been made of the amount brought in from Neymar's move to Paris-Saint-Germain but the majority of that has already gone on bringing in Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund and - much more importantly and historically - securing the future of Leo Messi.

This Coutinho deal is also about legacy in another way, as it is to bring in the ideal long-term successor to Andres Iniesta, but there is an immediacy there too. After their surge to a commanding position at the top of the Spanish table in the first half of the season, Barca now feel even more could be on and they could reclaim the Champions League this season. Coutinho would be cup-tied - and the potential individual frustrations of that are another angle there - but his mere presence would mean Iniesta is not used as much in what is a thin squad, and would be fresher for continental matches.

A lot of that might make sense from a football and business perspective, then, but still not necessarily from a negotiation perspective. More than most clubs, this Liverpool hierarchy do not like the sense they're being bullied, and will justifiably dig in. The pure businessman in John W Henry is said to almost take such impositions as an affront.

If they sell, as one figure put it, it will only be on their terms. Barca remain determined to change those terms.

Independent News Service

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