Barcelona agree deal to sign Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool
Barcelona have reached an agreement with Liverpool to acquire midfielder Philippe Coutinho, the clubs confirmed on Saturday.
The transfer fee was not confirmed publicly, but sources confirmed to ESPN FC that it would reach £142 million (€160m, $192.7m), with Liverpool receiving £105m (€120m, $142m) up front and the rest in performance-related add-ons.
Even the base figure would make Coutinho, 25, the second-most expensive player in world football behind Neymar, who left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain last summer in a deal worth €222m (£200m, $263m).
However, Kylian Mbappe will pass him for second on the list this summer when his €180m (£166m) permanent move from Monaco to PSG comes into effect after this year’s loan.
Barcelona said Coutinho would sign a five-and-a-half year contract with a buyout clause of €400m. The deal is still subject to formalities including a medical and agreement of personal terms.
Bem-vindo! Welcome! Benvingut! ¡Bienvenido!
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona_es) January 6, 2018
Liverpool rejected three offers — the highest £118m — for Coutinho from the Catalan outfit last summer after the player filed a transfer request, with the English club’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, then holding a firm not-for-sale stance.
Coutinho has been sidelined by a thigh injury and was among a number of Liverpool players who stayed behind as the rest of the team departed for a warm-weather training camp in Dubai following Friday’s FA Cup win.
He has not played in either of Liverpool’s matches since the winter transfer window opened on Jan. 1, although manager Jurgen Klopp had said this week that he expected the Brazilian to be fit for next weekend.
Klopp said in a statement that the club bid Coutinho farewell with “great reluctance.”
“It is no secret that Philippe has wanted this move to happen since July, when Barcelona first made their interest known,” Klopp said. “Philippe was insistent with me, the owners and even his teammates this was a move he was desperate to make happen.
“Despite that, we managed to keep the player here beyond the summer window, hoping that we would be able to persuade him to stay and be part of what we are looking to do.
“I can tell the Liverpool supporters that we, as a club, have done everything within our means to convince Philippe that remaining part of LFC was as attractive as moving to Spain, but he is 100 percent certain his future — and that of his family — belongs at Barcelona.
“It is his dream, and I am now convinced there is nothing left at our disposal to change his mind.”
Coutinho scored 41 Premier League goals after joining Liverpool from Inter Milan in January 2013, the 14th-most in the span since his debut. His 504 shots in that time rank fourth, while his 35 assists are sixth.
Inter, meanwhile, are set to miss out on a huge financial windfall as they did not insert a sell-on clause when they sold Coutinho to Liverpool for £11.7m, a source told ESPN FC in August.
Instead, the Italian side, along with Brazilian club Vasco da Gama — where Coutinho began his footballing career — believe they are only in line to receive a very small percentage of the transfer fee under FIFA’s solidarity mechanism.
The solidarity payment amounts to just 5 percent of the agreed transfer fee, with the buying club withholding that figure and then distributing it among clubs who qualify for payment. The full 5 percent would not be allocated between Inter and Vasco, with Liverpool having Coutinho on their books since he was 20 years of age.
Coutinho will reunite with former teammate Luis Suarez at Barcelona, after the Uruguayan striker left Anfield for the Camp Nou in 2014.
Barcelona, who host Levante in La Liga on Sunday, lead the Spanish league by six points and are also through to the knockout stage of the Champions League. They will face Chelsea beginning in February, but Coutinho will not be eligible because he already played for Liverpool in the group stage.
Liverpool, fourth in the Premier League, made a transfer splash of their own this month by spending £75m to get Virgil van Dijk from Southampton — a world record for a defender.
Coutinho made his debut for Brazil in 2010 and played at the Copa America in 2015 and 2016. He is yet to appear at a World Cup but played in 13 of Brazil’s 18 qualifiers for Russia 2018.
Though Coutinho’s reported base fee is the second-highest behind Neymar in both pounds and euros — the currencies most commonly used to define transfers — it is third in U.S. dollars at $142m, still behind Gareth Bale’s $145m (£86m, €100m) move to Real Madrid in 2013, because of changing exchange rates.
ESPN FC’s senior writer Mark Ogden and Barcelona correspondent Sam Marsden contributed to this report.
Glenn is ESPN FC’s Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.