Comment: This is the only Barcelona offer Liverpool should accept for Coutinho

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It should probably be taken as a given that any side with title aspirations can’t afford to lose a key player half-way through the season.

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But that’s the very predicament second-placed Liverpool could well find themselves in if Barcelona come calling for playmaker-in-chief Philippe Coutinho during the January transfer window.

The Blaugrana have had a long-standing interest in the Brazilian ever since he broke onto the scene at Anfield, but with a firm offer failing to materialise up to now, it had seemed that Coutinho had missed the boat as far as a switch to the Camp Nou was concerned.

However, up to his injury in late-November, the 24-year-old had stepped it up a notch performance-wise, offering the type of consistency and productivity that sparks the interest of Europe’s elite clubs.

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As the creative hub of Jurgen Klopp’s title chasers, Coutinho mustered six goals and five assists in just 14 appearances for the Merseysiders before disaster struck and injury hit. The Reds haven’t been quite the same in an attacking sense his absence, reaffirming his importance to both the team and the German.

Such a development has been noted among Barca officials, who know that stalwart Andres Iniesta is moving towards the twilight of his career. Put quite simply, replacing the veteran needs to be a key part of their own transfer strategy moving forward.

Andres Iniesta Spain

Now, persistent talk of a big-money move to Catalonia comes as a major distraction at a time when the ex-Inter midfielder is preparing to make his comeback and fire the Anfield outfit towards an inaugural league triumph.

The danger is- as we’ve seen before when Luis Suarez chose to swap Liverpool for Barcelona in 2014- that for South Americans, a move to one of La Liga’s big two is often viewed as being the pinnacle of a player’s career- something that is hard to turn down even when times are good elsewhere. It may well be the case that regardless of the Reds’ improvement, Coutinho himself would find it impossible to resist the overtures of Luis Enrique’s men.

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Herein lies the crux of the issue, though. For their part, Liverpool simply cannot give in at this point in the campaign; regardless of whether the player agitates for a switch or not.

The negative symbolism of losing a star man during a period of immense promise would sound the death knell not just to the club’s Premier League aspirations, but also show potential new recruits that Klopp’s exciting new product is prone to being picked apart by circling vultures at any given time.

It’s not a good look, and that’s why bids for Coutinho should be resisted unless the Brazilian makes it absolutely clear over the summer that he’ll down tools to force through a move.

Then, and only then, should Liverpool consider placing a valuation on the head of their prized asset.

As one of the Premier League’s top talents, it would have to be assumed that Coutinho would command a fee way in excess of £50m. Indeed, with three years left to run on his current deal, the Reds could demand something akin to the amount they received for Suarez if he were to leave the club.

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Another potential avenue to explore would be a cash-plus-player deal for the diminutive star. Granted, a mega-money transfer sum would boost the Anfield coffers, but the addition of a ready-made replacement in, say, Denis Suarez would also be a profitable outcome for Liverpool.

Given the circumstances, receiving such a deal for a wantaway talent would be the only way the Reds could possibly reconcile Coutinho’s sale.

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