ANGEL Di Maria, Ousmane Dembele and Jean Michael Seri have now become Barcelona’s main hopes despite Philippe Coutinho being their No.1 target.
That’s the consensus as the clock ticks another day closer to the August 31 deadline Liverpool fans are waiting for.
The contrarian report comes for Joaquim Piera in Sport, who continues to re-iterate that Barcelona feel they can reprise negotiations once Liverpool’s Champions League qualifiers are negotiated, and continue to tell Coutinho that he remains their No.1 target.
In the likelihood that he stays, Jurgen Klopp’s bigger challenge is re-integrating the Brazilian back into the squad after his very clear stance that he wanted to leave. He will have the international break as a buffer, before the Reds’ clash with Manchester City on September 9. The Liverpool Echo report this may be trickier than it would seem, given his camp, led by agent Kia Joorabchian, employed tactics like getting family members to leak to Sky Sports News that his relationship with Klopp had broken down.
Given the club told him face-to-face that he wouldn’t be sold, those tactics from his management team seemed untoward, given Coutinho didn’t actually strike and continued to report to Liverpool’s Melwood HQ. He has played some of his finest football under Klopp, yet Brazilian newspaper Estadao suggest Barcelona pressured the 25-year-old into threatening Liverpool that he wanted out.
For the besieged Catalan club, who are trying to get Lionel Messi to finally put pen to paper on his new deal and copped a lashing from Neymar on Monday, they are also now concerned about the future of Andres Iniesta. Italian outlet Sportal suggest that a move to Juventus at season’s end is a real possibility.
Meanwhile, Mundo Deportivo report that Argentine Di Maria has become their most realistic last minute prospect.
Despite French radio RMC again reporting that Seri is on his way to Camp Nou, Nice’s general manager Julien Fournier says talks haven’t even taken place, while Spanish outlet Don Balon have suggested that the midfielder actually harboured dreams of playing for Real Madrid, not Barca.
“We haven’t negotiated with Barca, nor do I know of any negotiations lined up in the next few days,” Fournier told Sport.
“They’re just rumours, so we haven’t set a price for Seri. I think the player will stay with us this season.
“It’s true that he is open to listening to offers but he’s also happy at Nice, whether we qualify for the group stages of the Champions League or not.”
Spanish football expert Guillen Balague told Sky Sports News in his latest update that Barcelona’s desperation has been exposed.
“Barcelona were not prepared for losing Neymar.
“Coutinho only became a target when Neymar left.
“Barca didn’t work on deals for Jean Michael Seri in the eventuality a move for Coutinho failed, and they thought they had got Marco Verratti when they hadn’t.
“Now Barcelona find themselves needing urgent solutions, but they won’t get all the players they want.
“If Liverpool are to be believed, they won’t get Coutinho, for instance, and they will have to go for other targets.”
“And that they would retract the offer if it was not accepted.
“Liverpool have not even answered, so that should mean that’s the end of that.
“Lodging a sizeable third bid (or who knows, even a fourth or fifth) for Coutinho could help Barca negotiate better deals for other targets, though.
“They may be able offer a little less for their targets now – Ousmane Dembele, Jean Michael Seri and their third target, Angel Di Maria from Paris Saint-Germain.”
Former Liverpool star John Aldridge said he thinks the Anfield faithful will welcome the Brazilian back with open arms, but Barcelona’s timing means it is simply not possible for Liverpool to buckle and sell him.
“If Coutinho goes, Liverpool would have a nightmare challenge of trying to sign players from clubs who don’t need or want to sell, while they will also know they can bump any selling price up with all that cash flowing into the Anfield coffers.
“Imagine if Coutinho left and the club fails to sign players to replace him, the fans will go mad!
“So the board just can’t let that happen and I’m sure they don’t need me to tell them that.”
He added: “There may be some Liverpool fans who disagree with me here, but I don’t think there will be any problem with Coutinho if he comes back into the team after handing in a transfer request and effectively going on strike in the first week of the season.
“Luiz Suarez had a similar situation a couple of years back when he wanted to leave for Arsenal, but was persuaded to stay and turned in a great year for Liverpool before leaving for Barcelona.
“Now it is happening again and even though Coutinho will be disappointed to be denied the move, this is a World Cup year and he will want to work his arse off to make sure he is in the Brazil team next summer.
“If Coutinho does his best for Liverpool this season and leave a year from now, then no one will argue. The trouble is that the timing of this move now is all wrong for Liverpool and the player has to accept that.”
Speaking to TalkSport, outspoken former Premier League midfielder Joey Barton said the move was a matter of when, not if, and the Reds should not be caught cold by the interest.
“Liverpool should have pre-empted this,” he said. “They should have known a big club was going to come sniffing for him and, although he’s difficult to replace, they should have had replacements lined up for him.”