Last summer Liverpool wanted to sign Virgil Van Dijk but for various reasons could not get a deal done. Similarly, Barcelona wanted to sign Philippe Coutinho but for various reasons also could not get a deal done.
Fast forward to January, and Van Dijk is now a Liverpool player while Coutinho is reportedly “on strike” for the second time in six months. The reason Van Dijk is now a Liverpool player is because the Reds spent the months between transfer windows working behind the scenes to smooth things over with Southampton and struck a deal with no fuss and no acrimony.
Terms were agreed with club and then player a week before the window officially opened. That deal went through because Liverpool asked Southampton what their valuation was and even though it was more than they would have liked to pay, they paid it anyway, without haggling or doing anything that might irritate Southampton and jeopardise the deal.
Coutinho on the other hand, is still waiting for Barcelona to come in for him and is now in limbo once again, conveniently sidelined with a 'minor injury' while he waits for his 'Dream Club' to swoop in and take him away from this personal torment. Four days into the window though, and Barcelona have yet to make a bid and do not appear to have learnt anything from their failure last summer.
Look, I'm not holding Liverpool up as the patron saint of transfers. The club messed up badly in the summer but at least lessons were learned, and with the Van Dijk transfer they showed exactly how business is supposed to be conducted in January. Clubs have months to do these deals and in most cases they should be ready to go as soon as the window opens, just as we were with the big Dutchman.
Why have Barcelona not bid yet? Why are we again reading the same reports in their mouthpiece newspapers that we saw last summer about how “a bid is on its way”? How’s this bid getting here, carrier pigeon?
They’re taking the piss, just as they did last summer with their derisory bids that they knew would never be accepted. They talk and talk and talk about how much they want Coutinho, but their actions don’t back that up. They knew those bids weren't enough but they hoped that by stirring up enough trouble we'd eventually feel as though we had to do a deal just to get him out.
Instead of lodging a serious bid for the player the very second this window opened, Barcelona have so far done nothing. Nothing official anyway. They’ve still been busy conducting their affairs in their usual, classless, disrespectful underhanded manner. We’ve had the predictable comments from past and present Barcelona players praising Coutinho, while their coach “refused to talk about him” because “he plays for another club”, but only after first saying what a great player he is, of course.
We also had their official kit supplier announcing his arrival at Camp Nou on their website and advertising shirts with his name on it. Barcelona had nothing to do with that though, of course. In fact, I'm sure they were absolutely horrified by it. “More than a club” and all that, don’t forget. The lack of respect they’ve shown is something that Liverpool should be taking into account if and when a bid arrives.
Here’s the thing. Barcelona do not need to quickly push through any deal for Coutinho. They’re winning their league regardless of whether they sign him or not and he would be ineligible to play in the Champions League for them so what’s the rush? If they choose, they can take their time and let this play out in the media throughout January.
For us it’s different. We’re on a great run and Coutinho had been a big part of that. He’s still here, still a Liverpool player, yet he’s not playing. “Injured”, apparently. Just as he was for the entirety of the last transfer window, funnily enough.
Reports in Spain and Brazil, however, tell us he is “on strike” and believes he has played his last game for the club. They also made sure to stress that the decision not to play has been taken by the player himself and he has not been put up to it in any way by Barcelona, no sir.
All this nonsense is a distraction that we don’t need but it’s happening because Barcelona think they can do what they like and get what they want. If they want Coutinho, fine; Put up or shut up. Shit or get off the pot. Put your money where your mouth is etc
There's been talk for three days now that a bid is on its way and presumably it will arrive eventually, but the real question is will they come in low again and work their way up over the next few weeks? If the first bid that comes in is as insulting as the last one they made, tell them to do one and come back in the summer.
If it's not far off the club's valuation then tell them they've got until after the weekend to make an acceptable offer, or do one and come back in the summer. They cannot be allowed to drag this out and unsettle what we've got going on right now, and even if they do come in with an acceptable offer I'd still think twice about accepting it just because of the blatant disrespect they've shown by allowing it to play out so publicly again and not having these discussions behind the scenes earlier. Cheeky arrogant bastards.
Frankly I’m at the point where I no longer care if Coutinho is here beyond this window or not, but whatever happens has to be on our terms because, contrary to what Barca and Coutinho's camp seem to believe, we still hold all the cards. Three and a half years left on his contract and it’s a World Cup year, so if a deal isn’t done, then good luck taking that 'strike' beyond January, Phil.
Ideally I’d like him to stay, either because no deal is done or because one is struck that sees him remain here before joining them in the summer. I’m fine with both of those scenarios and I’d even be relatively ok with selling him now providing Klopp has a replacement lined up and ready to go.
The one thing I won’t be ok with is selling him and not signing a replacement, especially if it happens late in the window. If that happens then the club will deserve every bit of criticism that comes their way, and hiding behind “it was Jurgen’s decision” won’t cut it. If they sell without buying a replacement they may as well have sold him last summer.
I don’t think that will happen though. FSG handled this situation perfectly last summer and so far they’ve done nothing wrong this time, but they cannot allow this situation to drag on and therefore an ultimatum needs to be set. We can’t be sat here still discussing this in the last week of January.
It's in Barca's interests to let the situation to turn toxic (as it did in the summer) in the hope that the price will come down because we’ll just want to get him out. It didn’t work in the summer and it shouldn’t work now. There’s a price that will get Coutinho and it’s fair to assume that Barcelona have been made aware of what that is.
They are working with the January transfer deadline in mind, but Liverpool need to set a deadline of their own as this nonsense can’t be allowed to run right up until the end of the month. There’s nothing complicated about this; there’s a price to get him and they either have the money or they don’t. Pay it or walk away, it's their choice, but Liverpool need to tell them to make their mind up now because why should we have this distraction undermining us at such a critical stage of the season?
Give them until Monday to come up with an acceptable offer and if they don't meet the deadline then don’t even pick up the phone to them until next summer and set their emails to go straight into trash.
It’s one thing to accept the reality that our best players can be cherry picked by richer clubs, but having them treat us like dickheads is something we really don't have to stand for, and hopefully we wont.