John Aldridge - Liverpool need to stand firm and hang on to Coutinho
It is no surprise that Philippe Coutinho fancies a move to Barcelona - but the Liverpool owners have to stand firm if they are to quell a simmering mood of unrest among the club’s supporters.
For any South American player, the lure of playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona is difficult to resist and we should not be surprised if he has told Liverpool he wants to go.
The language, the weather and everything about Barcelona will appeal to a Brazilian footballer who has probably spent his life dreaming about this move and the Catalan negotiators trying to get the deal done know they have that pulling power on their side.
Barcelona were always likely to go after Coutinho following Neymar’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain and at the end of the day, the player will get his wish if he pushes hard enough for the move.
Liverpool would get in excess of £100m for their Brazilian playmaker in this crazy summer transfer market and while that might look like good business to the number crunchers at Anfield, there is a much bigger overall story to look at here.
I have met Coutinho a few times and he is a great lad, with a good family behind him. He has enjoyed his time in Liverpool and would probably not want to leave for any other club.
Yet this is Barcelona. This is the chance to play with Lionel Messi every week. This is a special club and I can understand why he feels compelled to go after it.
The danger for Liverpool’s owners is balancing whether they can allow this deal to go through against keeping a player who wants to leave.
We can all understand why Coutinho fancies the move, yet the danger must be that the Liverpool fans will go mad if their hero is posing in a Barcelona shirt at the Nou Camp in the next few days.
After two years when the club has not spent too much money in the transfer market, the fans want to see big name arrivals at Anfield and not the sale of another key player to Barcelona.
Liverpool couldn’t stop Luis Suarez leaving for the Nou Camp a couple of years back, but the supporters accepted that after the owners stopped a potential move to Arsenal the previous summer.
So maybe the best Liverpool fans can hope for now is for the club to sit down with Coutinho and ask him to give the club one more year.
That’s what they did with Suarez when he seemed keen to join Arsenal and the extra season Liverpool had from him was sensational.
It might need manager Jurgen Klopp and the Anfield board to sit down with Coutinho and ask him to put his ambitions to move to one of the big Spanish clubs on to the back burner for 12 months and see where Liverpool are at that point.
Of course, the player and his agent will argue that an offer from Barcelona may not be there a year from now and that’s the dilemma Coutinho faces.
In a summer when Liverpool fans were hoping to see big name arrivals at Anfield, we are heading into the new season this weekend with just one big name arrival in Mohamed Salah and no progress on bids for Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk and Leipzig’s Naby Keita.
It was already a disappointing situation, but I think supporters appreciate how difficult it is to get deals done in a climate where massive transfer fees are being quotes and rich clubs don’t need to sell their best players.
However, those are the excuses and the reality must be that Liverpool’s transfer summer has yet to take off, with Klopp the frontman who will take the blame if this season goes wrong.
At the end of the day, the club has a great manager in place here and they need to back him because we do not want him questioning the club’s ambition.
The next ten days are crucial for Liverpool and if they see Coutinho join Barcelona and no big names arrivals, then the concerns of the supporters will reach boiling point.