Barcelona decided against making a final last-ditch offer to sign Philippe Coutinho on Spanish deadline day after Liverpool set an exorbitant asking price of €200m (£183.1m, $237.2m) for their wantaway playmaker, according to club director Albert Soler.
The Catalan giants’ high-profile pursuit of Coutinho became one of the summer’s most protracted and talked about transfer sagas, with Liverpool flatly refusing three lucrative offers – the last of which was said to total around £119m – for his services despite receiving an emailed transfer request from the unsettled Brazilian international.
Appearing alongside technical director Robert Fernandez at a press conference held on Saturday (2 September), Soler claimed that Liverpool’s eye-watering demands after “weeks of offers and talks” precluded any late switch before the transfer window in Spain closed yesterday evening.
“Liverpool put a price [on Coutinho] of 200 million euros and that was why we decided to step back,” he told reporters.
“This club and this president will not put this club’s assets at risk like that. Going into the market place with so much money, the financial demands made of us were exorbitant.
“We thank the player for the efforts he made, because he did make a big effort and showed he wanted to play for us. The situation ended as it ended and there is nothing else we can do.”
Soler also said: “We don’t want to get caught up in such an inflated market. Normally it’s traditional clubs that are big actors. Not right now.”
Coutinho, who signed a new long-term contract in January that contained no release clause, has not featured in any of Liverpool’s opening five matches in 2017-18 due to a combination of back issues and illness. However, he was declared fit to feature for Brazil and came off the bench to net for the Selecao during a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Ecuador.
Provided he sustains no further setback against Colombia in midweek, the 25-year-old will now presumably be in contention to feature against Manchester City in seven days time after being named in Jurgen Klopp’s 25-man Premier League squad.
Barcelona, who lost Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record fee in early August, ended deadline day with no further signings despite links to the likes of Angel Di Maria and Thomas Lemar and Fernandez previously stating that they were targeting two more additions following the headline arrival of Borussia Dortmund forward Ousmane Dembele in a deal worth up to €147m.
Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho was previously bought from Guangzhou Evergrande, while right-back Nelson Semedo was lured from Benfica and Barcelona also exercised their buy-back option on Gerard Deulofeu. Defender Marlon Santos joined on a permanent deal from Fluminense and was subsequently loaned to French side OGC Nice.
Such a lacklustre window at a time when fierce rivals Real Madrid are dominating the European football landscape has caused anger among supporters and led club legend Xavi Hernandez to claim that the Blaugrana have “fallen asleep”. Former presidential candidate Agusti Benedito has also launched a vote of no confidence against the current board, which is headed by the divisive figure of Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Despite Barcelona’s well-documented struggles in the market, however, Fernandez insists that manager Ernesto Valverde still has a squad capable of achieving great things.
“We have a fantastic squad and the new arrivals will help us to compete and maintain our standards,” he said.