Barcelona have reached an agreement with Liverpool to sign Philippe Coutinho after the Brazilian put pressure on the Premier League club to let him leave, sources close to the Catalan club told ESPN Deportes’ Jordi Blanco.
Coutinho is set to join Barca for a base fee of €90 million (£81.6m), with bonuses that could bring the deal to €120m (£108.8m), as the Catalan club begin to spend the €222m they received from Paris Saint-Germain for Neymar last week.
According to ESPN, a delegation from Barcelona headed up by chief executive Oscar Grau travelled to Liverpool on Monday night to finalise the negotiation, sources said.
The Brazilian midfielder told Liverpool earlier in the day that he wanted to leave and join Barcelona, sources close to the player have told ESPN Brasil.
Liverpool reportedly rejected a an €80m (£72m) offer from Barcelona last month, while manager Jurgen Klopp said last week that the Catalan side can “save their energy” in their pursuit of Coutinho, and sources close to the club were still telling ESPN FC on Tuesday morning the 25-year-old was not for sale.
But sources have now told ESPN Brasil and ESPN Deportes the deal is set to go through after the player spoke to Klopp about his desire to leave.
Barca’s interest in Coutinho predates Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain, though, and it’s unlikely he’s been signed as a direct replacement for his compatriot. Coutinho was a player the club felt could complement Neymar as Andres Iniesta grows older
Earlier this summer, there were reports that Neymar hoped to link up with Coutinho in Paris, but Coutinho preferred a move to Barca and could now find himself filling Neymar’s role as the left forward in Ernesto Valverde’s side, although the club eventually see him playing as a central midfielder.
Barcelona are still reported to be pursuing Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele, too, with multiple reports in Germany on Tuesday saying the Barcelona delegation were headed there next to work out another deal worth around €120m.
Coutinho’s move is being led by his agents Kia Joorabchian and Sam Kohansal, who also hope to negotiate a move for Paulinho to join Barca from Guangzhou Evergrande in the coming days.
Coutinho is already familiar with Barcelona, having spent time living in Barcelona while on loan at Espanyol from Inter in 2012, before eventually joining Liverpool from the Italian side for €10m the following year.
In four-and-a-half seasons at Anfield he has made 182 appearances and scored 42 goals, becoming a key part of Jurgen Klopp’s team. He will be reunited with former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez at Barcelona.
Earlier, former Liverpool captain and manager Graeme Souness said the Premier League club would struggle to keep hold of Coutinho as it is hard for a player to turn down Barcelona.
“I don’t think you can [keep him],” Souness told Sky Sports, which reported on Monday that Coutinho wanted to leave Liverpool. “The chance to play for a team that would suit his style of play, I don’t think he can say no to it, as hard as that is for Liverpool to accept.
“Ultimately if he wants to go he will go, as much as the club won’t want him to. He’s on a contract but if the big players want to go these days then they get their own way.”
Fellow former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher said he believed his old club may be able to hang on to Coutinho for now, but face a battle in keeping him away from Barca further down the line.
“I don’t think he will go. But he will want to go and wear that shirt,” he told Sky Sports. “Who wouldn’t want to go? It’s Barcelona. I’m sure whether it’s this summer or next summer Philippe Coutinho will want to wear that shirt and go to Barcelona. There’s nothing wrong with it. That’s football.”