LONDON • Liverpool are confident of keeping Philippe Coutinho, despite the attentions of Barcelona, because their influential playmaker does not have an escape clause in his contract.
The absence of a buyout figure leaves the English Premier League leaders holding the aces and Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool's American owner, would be guided by manager Jurgen Klopp should a bid be forthcoming.
Paris Saint-Germain had been linked with a move for Coutinho in the close season, while speculation that Barcelona would target him has been building despite the considerable presence of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar at the Nou Camp.
The front page of Catalan newspaper Sport carried the front-page headline "Objetivo Coutinho" on Friday and suggested that the 24-year-old was the club's No. 1 summer target.
Coutinho visited close friend and former Liverpool team-mate Suarez at Barcelona's hotel in Manchester before their Champions League loss to Manchester City 11 days ago.
Neymar also added to a public courtship in the aftermath of Brazil's 3-0 win over Argentina on Thursday by claiming that he and Coutinho are "made to play with each other".
Coutinho opened the scoring with Neymar adding a second in Belo Horizonte. His eye-catching displays will be recognised by Liverpool should he maintain his high standards.
Yet, there are no plans in place to rip up his existing contract, which was agreed 18 months ago, and an extension would not necessarily safeguard his future.
Suarez signed a new deal in December 2013, but left the summer after with Barcelona triggering the £75 million (S$133.6 million) escape clause that was inserted into the contract.
The subject of a get-out clause would more than likely be raised in any future talks on a deal for Coutinho, whose agent is Kia Joorabchian.
The Iranian-born agent also represents Lucas Leiva and Anfield team-mate Allan, the Brazil Under-20 midfielder who is on loan at Hertha Berlin.
Liverpool, including new sporting director Michael Edwards, have a good relationship with Coutinho.
He signed for £8.5 million from Inter Milan in January 2013 and his value has soared.
He has scored five goals in the Premier League this term with his electrifying displays, alongside fellow Brazilian Roberto Firmino and Senegal forward Sadio Mane, helping to propel Klopp's side to the top of the table.
His latest stunning goal came on Thursday against Brazil's most bitter rivals, in which he cut inside off the left and shot into the top corner.
After a result that leaves Argentina horribly off the pace in qualification, Neymar said: "Playing with Coutinho is always a joy. We've been friends for years and each day I think we are made to play with each other more."
THE TIMES, LONDON