London: Liverpool insisted on Friday that Philippe Coutinho would not be sold at any price amid reports Spanish giants Barcelona had increased their bid for the Brazil forward to £90 million ($117 million, 99 million euros).
A statement issued by Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s US-based owners, said: “We wish to offer clarity as regards our position on a possible transfer of Philippe Coutinho.
“The club’s definitive stance is that no offers for Philippe will be considered and he will remain a member of Liverpool Football Club when the summer (transfer) window closes.”
FSG’s statement was an endorsement of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s previous comments that Coutinho was not going anywhere.
And the German boss, speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool’s 2017/18 Premier League season opener away to Watford on Saturday, said: “I think if somebody, in this case FSG, is saying something like this it is the statement.
“I think I have said it already a few times, but maybe that’s not 100 per cent clear.”
But Klopp was far more reserved when asked to comment on the nature of any talks he had held with Coutinho, adding: “I don’t think I ever told you anything about what I spoke to players (about). I turned 50 in the summer, so maybe I forget things like this. I have nothing to say about this.”
Coutinho, who joined Liverpool from Inter Milan for £8.5 million in 2013, signed a new five-year contract with the northwest side in January that did not include a buy-out clause.
Barcelona, already one of world football’s biggest clubs, want Coutinho to replace Neymar following his compatriot’s world record 222 million euros transfer to Paris Saint-Germain earlier this month.
They had two previous bids rejected by the Premier League side but could yet come back with an offer in excess of £100 million.
Barca believe Coutinho can step in for Neymar alongside Lionel Messi and former Liverpool favourite Luis Suarez in a star-studded front three, and could also provide cover for 33-year-old Andres Iniesta in midfield.
Coutinho out of Watford opener
Although five-time European champions, most recently in 2005, Liverpool are no longer one of the continent’s heavyweights and the last of their 18 English league titles came in 1990 — before the start of the Premier League era.
Klopp, however, is determined to show he is serious about bringing back the glory days to Anfield by retaining Coutinho, Liverpool’s top scorer with 14 goals in all competitions last season when the Merseysiders finished fourth.
But Coutinho will be missing from the Watford match with a back problem that could also rule him out of the first leg of a Champions League qualifying play-off away to German club Hoffenheim on Tuesday.
Asked if Coutinho would play at Vicarage Road on Saturday, Klopp replied: “No, he has back problems. He was not in training since last Friday. No he is not available, he is also a doubt for Tuesday, unfortunately.” Questioned on whether his job now was to keep Coutinho happy, Klopp added: “I can’t keep players happy. That’s how life is. “It’s not about this, Phil is not available for us, that’s the biggest issue that he’s not available to play.” — AFP