Barca giving Coutinho pursuit a boost, eye January buy

Philippe Coutinho celebrating after scoring the second goal in Liverpool's 3-2 Premier League victory over Leicester on Sept 23. Despite the failed transfer bid, he is still a target for Barca.
Philippe Coutinho celebrating after scoring the second goal in Liverpool's 3-2 Premier League victory over Leicester on Sept 23. Despite the failed transfer bid, he is still a target for Barca.PHOTO: REUTERS

BARCELONA • Barcelona are planning a fresh assault on Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho in the January transfer window, the Catalan club's chief executive Oscar Grau promised on Wednesday.

Barca were thwarted in their attempt to prise Coutinho away from Anfield during the summer, with Liverpool placing a reported €200 million (S$321 million) asking price on the forward.

Despite the player trying to engineer a move, Liverpool turned down his late transfer request during the close season window.

But Grau made it clear that the Spanish giants, five-time European champions, had not given up the chase. "We are ready to sign Coutinho, or any other player (during the winter transfer window)," he told a press conference.

"We have the money," he added, confirming the club's announcement in July of record income of €708 million for 2016-17 with an after-tax profit of €18 million.

He also said that the club have a predicted new record revenue of €897 million for the 2017-18 season.

"The most important thing is the demands from the management, and we will do everything possible to meet them. We want to have the most competitive team possible," Grau said.

Barca experienced a tumultuous time during the summer transfer market, losing Coutinho's Brazilian compatriot Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record €222 million, and bringing in Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund for €105 million.

But Dembele has endured a nightmare start to the new chapter of his career at the Nou Camp. The France international suffered a hamstring injury on his full LaLiga debut, ruling him out until January at the earliest.

For Coutinho, he has shown no sign of being distracted by his failed attempt to leave Liverpool since returning to Jurgen Klopp's side after a back injury.

The 25-year-old has scored in his last three appearances for the Reds and will carry even greater responsibility for his team with Sadio Mane sidelined for up to six weeks by a hamstring injury suffered on international duty with Senegal.

Liverpool host their arch-rivals Manchester United tomorrow and are seven points behind Jose Mourinho's side with only seven league matches played.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2017, with the headline 'Barca giving Coutinho pursuit a boost, eye January buy'. Print Edition | Subscribe