In the end, Liverpool had no other choice but to let star midfielder Philippe Countinho complete his dream move to Barcelona – but in the process they achieved the third highest transfer fee of all time.
Standing in the middle of Camp Nou, Philippe Coutinho grinned and waved to the fans as the former Liverpool star’s long-awaited move to Barcelona finally became reality. But while news of the Brazilian’s departure broke the hearts of the Liverpool faithful, they can at least take heart in the fact that his huge transfer fee represents one of the club’s shrewdest ever pieces of business. Having joined Liverpool in an £8.5 million deal in January of 2013, Coutinho developed into one of the English Premier League’s finest players. And with Barcelona singling him out as the perfect long-term replacement for Andrés Iniesta – not to mentioned seeking a big name replacement for Neymar – the result was a massive £142 million fee to seal Coutinho’s move to Spain. That represents a tidy profit of £133.5 million in just five years.
This astronomic figure makes the Brazilian the third most expensive player in football history after Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, both of whom made the move to cashed up Paris Saint Germain this season.
It was widely acknowledged that Liverpool would not be able to keep Coutinho beyond this season, but most anticipated that he would follow that path of Luis Suarez by looking to finish his last season in a Liverpool jersey on a high. Coutinho saw it a different way.
In the final game of 2017, Liverpool played at home against Leicester City. In the dying minutes, Jürgen Klopp substituted on Ragnar Klavan to enhance the defence, protecting his side’s 2-1 lead. Coutinho came off, looked around the stadium and without much joy, raised his hands to the applause. On the touchline, Klopp welcomed Coutinho with a warm hug. Not many in the stadium recognized the significance of this moment at the time, but as we now know Coutinho had already made up his mind and knew he had played his last match for Liverpool. In the end, Klopp made the final call to let Coutinho go, despite the club having made such a strong stance in keeping him last summer by rejecting three offers from the Spanish giants. The reason was simple.
“It was just clear after we spoke that it would not work out. We knew it when the club tried everything,” Klopp explained.
For football players from South America, playing for Barcelona represents the brightest moment in their football careers. When Coutinho was still young and learning his trade in Vasco da Gama’s youth academy, he worshiped another Brazilian, Ronaldinho, who worked his magic at Camp Nou.
Also an attacking midfielder who could play on the wing, Coutinho shares similar attributes to his idol in that he is skillful, creative and full of imagination. He can create for teammates and score from distance.
Suarez, who was a big brother for the young Brazilian when the pair played together on Merseyside, set a clear pathway for Coutinho to follow. Since joining Barca from Liverpool in 2014, Suarez has won two La Liga titles, a Champions League title and three Copa del Reys in a row. Scoring 96 goals from 112 La Liga appearance compared with 69 goals from 110 league appearance in Liverpool, he has also benefited from the brilliance of his teammates, particularly Lionel Messi. The Suarez-Coutinho reunion will benefit both — no wonder Suarez helped to sort out a house for the Brazilian even before his transfer had been finalized!
The timing of the transfer is not ideal for Liverpool, particularly as they are still alive and well in both the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup. The recent £75 million deal to bring defender Virgil van Dijk to Anfield has revealed the Reds’ determination to build on their momentum. Losing their key player in the winter transfer window, which could jeopardize their season, was the last thing Klopp would have wanted. But all the ongoing speculation about Coutinho’s future would also have affected the morale of the dressing room, with the mood and expressions of the Brazilian in front of his teammates unlikely to have masked his real desire. In the end, Klopp made the best decision for the club.
It’s worth noting that Coutinho’s first ever tattoo, drawn on his left arm, is a Latin phrase meaning “Never Stop Dreaming.” He followed his dream from Brazil to Europe, from Italy to England and now to Barcelona – his ultimate goal.