Coutinho to Barca? Three reasons why Liverpool need to stand firm

Philippe Coutinho’s future at Liverpool has been cast into doubt as Barcelona are ready to splash the cash on the Brazilian. The La Liga giants have already had a £72 million bid rejected, but they’ll do whatever they can to bring Coutinho to Barca this summer.

An improved £80 million bid is being lined up, according to the Daily Mirror, so this could well be a transfer saga that lasts for the remainder of the window.

Barcelona have long been admirers of Coutinho. Many feel he is the perfect man to replace Andres Iniesta at the Nou Camp. But it’s Neymar’s potential world-record move to PSG that has accelerated the chase for the Liverpool playmaker.

Paris Saint-Germain are seemingly set to trigger Neymar’s £196m release clause, shattering the transfer record by £107m. That would leave Barcelona with a big void to fill in their squad, but a lot of money to fill it with.

But no matter what, Liverpool won’t want to lose their star attacker. Here are three reasons Liverpool need to hold on to Coutinho this summer:

1. ‘Not a selling club’

The club have insisted they are “not a selling club” and won’t be forced to sell. Jurgen Klopp made that very clear after news of the initial bid surfaced. He spoke directly to Coutinho about the issue during the team’s preseason tour at the Premier League Asia Trophy in Hong Kong, and he believes the Reds have no reason to part ways with the Brazilian.

It’s now crucial for Liverpool to stand by that statement. Their fans will be concerned with interest from a club as big as Barca. But if Liverpool want to continue improving, as they have made clear, they must stand by their word.

2. A worrying trend following big sales

Liverpool’s three biggest sales in club history are Fernando Torres, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez. All three were sold over the past seven seasons, but the Reds have tended to struggle after losing key men.

In Torres’s final season at Anfield, Liverpool finished 6th. The following season, they finish 8th. In Luis Suarez’s final season at the club, Liverpool hand one hand on the 2013/14 Premier League title before a late collapse saw them finish runners-up. After he left for Barcelona in the summer of 2014, Liverpool went on to finish 6th. That was in Raheem Sterling’s final season. Then, after he departed for Man City Liverpool ended up finishing 8th in the first season without him.

The trend is that Liverpool have worse seasons after losing star players. Yes, that will be the case for most clubs. Yes, it’s difficult to build once a star man has left. But some clubs cope, Liverpool have so far proven they cannot. Losing Coutinho to Barca would be potentially disastrous for what Klopp is building.

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3. Irreplaceable

The reason the Coutinho to Barca rumours have picked up so much pace is because there are arguably very few, if any suitable replacements for Neymar at the Nou Camp. Coutinho is excellent on the ball. He is highly versatile. He has the ability to beat a man with ease. And he is as good at finding the back of the net as he is a teammate. Barcelona know that he would be well suited to replacing the goals and assists Neymar provides.

So if Liverpool were to sell, there is no obvious answer as to who they’d bring in as his replacement. Yes, they’d have a big stack of cash to spend. But given the inflated prices during the current transfer window, Liverpool would likely have to settle for someone a lot less talented that Coutinho if they needed to replace him.

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How Liverpool could benefit from Barcelona swap deal if Coutinho leaves this summer

Barcelona are not giving up hope of luring Liverpool’s star playmaker Philippe Coutinho to the Nou Camp this summer, despite the fact the 24-year-old Brazilian penned a new five-year contract in January.

Coutinho became the Reds’ highest-paid player just a couple of months ago but it has done little to stop Barca from pursuing his signature as they look to strengthen this summer.

The Liverpool star is seen as an ideal replacement for Iniesta, who is approaching the end of his career and has yet to sign a new deal with the Catalan giants.

Don’t miss: Andres Iniesta rejects £28m-a-year offer from China with NYCFC move still on the cards

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Liverpool fans won’t want to imagine life without Coutinho at Anfield. His creativity is a huge asset to the side as he can operate behind the striker or out on the left wing, thriving in both roles under Jurgen Klopp.

The Reds will need even more depth next season as they prepare for life back in Europe – whether that be the Champions League or Europa League – so losing Coutinho is a scenario Klopp will be trying not to think about.

But if the player wants to link up with former Liverpool teammate Luis Suarez, Brazilian pal Neymar and Lionel Messi it will be difficult to keep him. But there is still a way Liverpool could benefit from the loss of their No.10 as Barca could allow their own 24-year-old Brazilian playmaker to depart in the coming months.

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Rafinha is reportedly being chased by Arsenal, Juventus and most interestingly Liverpool as he has been unable to nail down a guaranteed starting place with Barca. He has played 27 times in all competitions this season but has only started 17 of those matches and his chances of bettering that tally would be significantly hampered if Coutinho were to join the club this summer.

Barca would be willing to let Rafinha leave if the right offer came in, just as they did with his brother Thiago Alcantara who joined Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich in 2013. Liverpool would surely move to the front of the queue for Rafinha if the two clubs were already in discussions regarding Coutinho.

16/17 League Stats
Appearances
Goals
Assists
Chances Created Per 90 Mins
Pass Accuracy
Coutinho
22
6
5
2.67
83%
Rafinha
17
6
2
1.18
92%

Both Rafinha and Coutinho have scored six league goals this season, with the Liverpool ace picking up three more assists. Although he has played five more games and has racked up 523 more minutes than the Barca man.

Coutinho creates more chances for his teammates per 90 minutes than Rafinha, although his passing accuracy isn’t as good, with the Barca academy product only misplacing 39 passes in La Liga all season.

Losing Coutinho would undoubtedly worry Reds fans but if they can negotiate a swap deal with Barcelona for Rafinha they could still be in a position to challenge at the top end of the Premier League next season. They would also be able to free up some space on the wage bill to pursue other targets as they prepare for a busier schedule in the 2017/18 campaign.

Would Rafinha be a good replacement for Coutinho at Liverpool if Barcelona come in for the Reds star this summer?

Andres Iniesta rejects £28m-a-year offer from China with NYCFC move still on the cards

New York City FC will not have given up hope on signing Barcelona Andres Iniesta just yet, with Spanish outlet Don Balon claiming the midfielder has rejected an offer from the Chinese Super League worth £28 million per season ($35 million).

Iniesta has just over a year remaining on his current Barca contract. The club’s sporting director Robert Fernandez has claimed the World Cup winner will renew with the club he has spent his entire career at but he has yet to put pen to paper.

“He will renew at the moment he chooses,” Fernandez said. “Andres deserves the best. He grew here as a player and he’s given everything for the club. I can’t imagine a Barcelona without him and he can’t either.”

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Fernandez is right. It is tough to imagine Barcelona without Iniesta and while it looks likely he will see out his illustrious career with the Blaugrana, there is still a chance that he could be tempted to finish his playing career in MLS alongside his former club and Spanish teammate David Villa.

Rejecting a big-money offer from China suggests the eight-time La Liga champion is not solely interested in securing a big pay packet before hanging up his boots. NYCFC have reportedly offered Iniesta a ‘blank cheque’ when it comes to any possible contract negotiations but they can offer more than just money, with David Villa likely to be the deal breaker if he does indeed make the move stateside.

The 2016 MLS MVP has previously encouraged his former teammate to “share the American experience” with him in New York City, although Villa will be 36 by the time Iniesta’s contract expires at Barcelona and surely in one of his final seasons himself.

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The catch here is that the only way it seems Iniesta joins NYCFC is if Andrea Pirlo hangs his own boots up at the end of the year. The Italian maestro will turn 38 in May and only has nine months remaining on his current MLS deal – while the same applies for Villa.

It’s quite feasible to assume Pirlo will retire at the end of the year, leaving NYCFC with a free Designated Player slot as well as a healthy amount of money to spend on wages for a direct replacement. That replacement could then be Iniesta.

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Nothing is set in stone at this stage, but the Barca star will have to adapt to life under a new head coach once Luis Enrique departs this summer. He’s also only played 791 minutes in La Liga this season and is on track to play fewer league games than in any of the previous 12 seasons, proving that his role is shifting as his age becomes a factor.

The NYCFC door appears to be open, it’s just a question of if that door is more appealing than a new Barca contract for Iniesta.

Do you think we’ll ever see Iniesta playing in MLS? Or will he remain with Barcelona for the rest of his career?

Messi and Ronaldo to meet in Miami as El Clasico heads stateside this summer

The two biggest clubs in world football will go head-to-head in Miami this summer, with Real Madrid and Barcelona gearing up for just the second ever El Clasico to be played outside of Spain.

Some of the game’s biggest stars – including Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – are expected to be on show as the Spanish giants prepare to face off in the 2017 International Champions Cup series. The game will be played on Saturday July 29 in front of over 60,000 people at the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium.

It will be the first time El Clasico has ever been played on American soil and will be just the second time the rivalry has been played outside of Spain, with the only previous meeting abroad coming 35 years ago in Venezuela.

Barcelona will have their famous MSN trio of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar at their disposal, while Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to make the game, despite his involvement in the Confederations Cup in Russia a month before.

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It’s another huge boost for an ever-growing soccer audience in the USA and particularly for Miami, considering the continuous troubles with the attempts to get David Beckham’s MLS Expansion Franchise off the ground.

It would be an incredible day to announce that Miami is finally set to get an MLS team, but we’ll try not to get too ahead of ourselves on that one.

However, it is highly likely that either Barcelona or Real Madrid will be the opponent for the 2017 MLS All-Star match, which is set to take place in Chicago just four days after the game in Miami.

Barcelona plotting move for promising Chelsea star – report

FC Barcelona look set to reignite their interest in Chelsea attacker Kenedy and are reportedly planning to make a move for the Brazilian this summer.

The 20-year-old winger has started just two Premier League games for the Blues this season and Barca will look to bolster their attack by securing his services in the coming months, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Kenedy was targeted by Barcelona before eventually securing a move to Stamford Bridge last summer, but the Catalan giants have continued to scout him and sporting director Ariedo Braida now wants to see the former Fluminense man swap England for Spain, according to Mundo Deportivo’s report.

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Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique has a wealth of attacking options at his disposal, with Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi forming what is largely considered the best attacking trio in world football.

However, fringe players Sandro and Munir have failed to impress when called upon and so Kenedy is viewed as an ideal addition.

The young Chelsea man has made 16 appearances for the Blues this term, scoring twice and has been deployed at left-back in recent weeks by interim manager Guus Hiddink.

Would Kenedy be a good signing for Barcelona? How important is he to Chelsea?

Wenger labels side ‘naive’ as Arsenal rue missed chances in Barcelona defeat

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was left frustrated after watching his side suffer a 2-0 first leg defeat at the hands of current Champions League holders FC Barcelona on Tuesday night.

Barcelona came into the game unbeaten in 32 matches but were frustrated by a resilient display from the Gunners for the first 70 minutes. However, eventually their quality shone through as Lionel Messi grabbed himself a brace to give the Spanish giants a huge advantage heading into the second leg.

Wenger believes his side were once again naive and the Frenchman was frustrated that they couldn’t open the scoring in what was an open contest.

“Technically we were very average,” Wenger said after the game. “The regret I have is, despite looking like we dominated the game, we gave a goal away in the last 15 minutes, similar to Monaco; naive and that’s what is frustrating. When we looked like we could win this game we just gave it away.”

Wenger added that his players looked tired, which will worry Arsenal fans as they have a hectic upcoming schedule in the Premier League title race.

“It’s too easy to blame, you have to respect the effort the players have put in but it’s very frustrating at the moment, we looked like we were tired. I knew before the game in the last 20 minutes we’d have a chance to win the game if we didn’t make any mistakes and that’s the frustration of the night.”

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Arsenal’s vice captain, Per Mertesacker, made a mistake leading up to the Barcelona penalty which made the score 2-0. He rued his sides missed chances and highlighted the main focus for now must be the Premier League.

“It’s a tough go for us now, we had to score at one point here,” the German said.

“You would never keep them quiet for 90 minutes that was for sure. We tried our best but we didn’t deserve it because we had enough chances to score at least one.

“We have to concentrate on the Premier League now and then in one month we are facing Barcelona again with the same bravery and same courage. We still have a little chance, we don’t give up.”

Could Arsenal’s ‘naivety’ cost them in the Premier League title race?

PHOTOS: Exclusive images from Manchester United’s win against Barcelona in California

Manchester United kept their 100% record on their US tour going by beating FC Barcelona 3-1 in front of 68,414 fans at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Saturday night.

Louis Van Gaal will have been delighted with the performance and result as his team put on their best display yet, following a 1-0 win over Club America and a 3-1 victory against San Jose Earthquakes prior to Saturday’s match.

Wayne Rooney, Jesse Lingard and Adnan Januzaj were all on target for the Red Devils, while Rafinha netted for Barcelona.

United play their last preseason game of their US tour against Paris Saint-Germain in Chicago on Wednesday night before returning home in time for the Premier League season opener against Tottenham on August 8.

Check out our exclusive photos from the game in California below, courtesy of our North American photographer Denise McCooey.

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Barcelona star could turn down Manchester United move for MLS switch

FC Barcelona right-back and Manchester United transfer target Dani Alves could turn down a move to the Premier League in favour of making the switch to MLS, according to The Guardian.

The Brazilian defender has made a staggering 393 La Liga appearances during his time with Sevilla and Barcelona but has yet to agree a new deal with the Spanish giants which has left the Red Devils keeping a close eye on developments.

However, because Dani Alves is now 32 years of age, The Guardian’s Tor-Kristian Karlsen believes that the attacking full-back may be “somewhat past his prime” and is a “possible recruitment for an MLS side”.

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During his time in Spain, Alves has won five La Liga titles, two Champions League’s and three Copa Del Rey’s among other honours and would therefore demand a high weekly wage if he were to make the move to MLS.

Because of that factor, he would certainly have to join on a Designated Player contract. There are currently eight teams in Major League Soccer with Designated Player slots available, including expansion franchise New York City FC, where Alves’ former teammate David Villa is plying his trade.

The other expansion franchise, Orlando City, are owned by Brazilian man, Flávio Augusto da Silva. Ex-international compatriot Kaka and midfielder Pedro Ribeiro are also both at Orlando, so Alves could be persuaded by his fellow countrymen to join them in the USA.

Could Dani Alves make the switch to MLS?

Seattle Sounders striker Chad Barrett likens team goal to Barcelona

Seattle Sounders striker Chad Barrett has hailed the build-up play by his fellow teammates for his second goal in their 2-0 MLS away win at Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.

“People are like ‘there was 21 passes down there in the defensive half and all those passes don’t mean anything’. Barcelona does it and when they do it, it means something,” Barrett told the Seattle Sounders official YouTube channel.

“It was a beautiful play up to the goal to create that space. All those passes gave (Marco) Pappa that space and gave him the time to look up and find me.”

Barrett was brought into the side in the absence of Obafemi Martins and finished off a lovely move with a wonderful left-footed strike into the bottom corner for his second goal of the game.

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The 30-year-old feels that the style of play that led to that goal is one of the hardest things for other teams to defend against.

“I’ve been on the other side of that, everyone’s been on the other side of that. When they have the ball all the time, it’s like playing Real Madrid or Barcelona because they just don’t give up the ball.

“And when they do, you feel like you have to really protect the ball that much more because you don’t want to give it right back to them.”

Barrett believes Seattle’s possession play was one of the things that they did “really well” and that it’s a good way of grinding down the opponents.

“Our video today was pretty much all our possession and we had spells there when a couple of them were a minute long, a minute and thirty seconds long and that’s really deflating for another team.”

How good was Chad Barrett and his Seattle Sounders teammates against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday?

Tottenham linked with second Barcelona youngster in three days

Tottenham are again being linked with a move for a FC Barcelona youngster as Spanish outlet Sport are reporting the Premier League side could make a £7 million move for Marc Bartra this summer.

Tottenham have also been linked with Barca’s Sandro Ramirez this week as the club are clearly looking towards the newly crowned Spanish champions for young talent.

Bartra has previously been targeted by Spurs before he signed a new contract with Barcelona in March, but he now looks likely to leave at the end of the season.

The Sport report claims: “There are several teams willing to pay the €10 million needed to sign Bartra (his release clause). Many clubs have made contact but the player is focused on finishing the season.”

It goes on to suggest that Bartra will sit down with Barca chiefs after the Champions League final to discuss his future but it looks unlikely he will stay.

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The Spanish international has made just 13 league appearances this season and is not likely to see any more first team action next term unless something changes drastically.

Spurs look to have already wrapped up the signing of one young defender in the shape of Kevin Wimmer, and Marc Bartra could also join the Lilywhites in the coming months as Mauricio Pochettino looks to address the club’s defensive issues.

Spurs have conceded 53 goals in 37 league games this season, the sixth worst record in the top flight, and so defensive changes are to be expected.

Would Marc Bartra be a good signing for Tottenham?