Football: Coutinho's transfer request rejected

Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho will not feature against Watford in the league today because of a back injury and may have played his last game for the club.
Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho will not feature against Watford in the league today because of a back injury and may have played his last game for the club.PHOTO: REUTERS

Reds owners adamant the playmaker will be at the club when the transfer window shuts

LONDON • Philippe Coutinho's transfer request yesterday was quickly rejected by Liverpool, hours after club owners issued a statement saying that the Brazilian playmaker is not for sale, according to Sky Sports and the BBC.

It is believed that a close family member of Coutinho's told Sky Sports: "Philippe has tried very hard to find an amicable solution to this situation but to no avail. He has tremendous love for the club and their fans, but like Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez have pointed out in the past, Liverpool do not let their players leave on amicable terms."

The matter blew up after Liverpool insisted early yesterday morning that Coutinho would not be sold at any price amid reports that Spanish giants Barcelona had increased their bid for him to £90 million (S$159 million).

A statement issued by Fenway Sports Group (FSG), Liverpool's American-based owners, said: "We wish to offer clarity as regards our position on a possible transfer of Philippe Coutinho.

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"The club's definitive stance is that no offers for Philippe will be considered and he will remain a member of Liverpool Football Club when the summer (transfer) window closes."

FSG's statement was an endorsement of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp's previous comments that Coutinho was not going anywhere.

But the German was far more reserved at his pre-match conference ahead of Liverpool's Premier League opener away to Watford today, when asked to comment on the nature of any talks he had held with Coutinho.

TIME TO FORCE THE ISSUE

He has tremendous love for the club and their fans, but like Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez have pointed out in the past, Liverpool do not let their players leave on amicable terms.

A CLOSE FAMILY MEMBER OF PHILIPPE COUTINHO, on Liverpool making it difficult for their playmaker to leave for Barcelona.

"I don't think I ever told you anything about what I spoke to players (about)," he said.

"I turned 50 in the summer, so maybe I forget things like this. I have nothing to say about this."

Coutinho, who joined Liverpool from Inter Milan for £8.5 million in 2013, signed a five-year contract with the Merseyside club in January that did not include a buy-out clause. Barcelona want Coutinho to replace Neymar following his compatriot's world-record €222 million (S$357 million) transfer to Paris Saint-Germain earlier this month.

They had two previous bids rejected by the Premier League side but could yet come back with an offer in excess of £100 million.

Barca believe Coutinho can step in for Neymar alongside Lionel Messi and former Liverpool favourite Suarez in a star-studded front three.

Klopp, however, is determined to win the Premier League title this season by retaining Coutinho, Liverpool's top scorer with 14 goals in all competitions last season when the Reds finished fourth.

Coutinho will nonetheless be missing from the Watford match with a back problem that could also rule him out of the first leg of a Champions League qualifying play-off away to German club Hoffenheim on Tuesday.

Asked if the playmaker would play at Vicarage Road today, Klopp said: "No, he was not in training since last Friday. No, he is not available, he is also a doubt for Tuesday, unfortunately."

Questioned on whether his job now was to keep Coutinho happy, Klopp added: "I can't keep players happy. That's how life is.

"It's not about this, Phil is not available for us, that's the biggest issue that he's not available to play."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2017, with the headline 'Coutinho transfer request rejected'. Print Edition | Subscribe