COMMENT: Kopites should be bouncing today. Indeed, anyone connected to Liverpool should be floating after just about the perfect weekend you could experience as a Reds fan.
If there’s one thing better than winning, it’s winning and seeing your opposition squirm. Or, to pick up the Liverpool theme, if there’s one thing better than thrashing Everton 5:0 – then it’s beating ’em 1-0 in the 95th minute.
Thanks to De Spiegel and Diego – this has to be how those inside Melwood are feeling today.
For on the day Diego Costa was touching down in Madrid. And in Germany Barcelona‘s failed pursuit of Philippe Coutinho was laid bare. The Brazil international produced a 45 minute masterclass at Leicester City to end any doubt about his attitude and character.
Yes, he put in a transfer request. Yes, there was that dodgy back strain. But on Saturday, he left none of us in doubt where his commitment lay. The fizzing, cross-field pass for Mohamed Salah’s header was stunning. His goal, a venomous free-kick which flashed past Kasper Schmeichel, was even better. Coutinho was untouchable. Unplayable. And all in an evening, when just hours previously the world was reading how he’d been denied by his own club the chance of a €115m – or €23m-a-year – five-year contract at Barcelona. To be blocked from such a life-changing opportunity – and produce a performance as he did at the King Power – it just spoke volumes for Coutinho’s character. The lad doesn’t need to open his gob and pledge allegiance. Just point any doubter to a clip of his first-half at Leicester and that will be enough. Particularly when compared with another Brazilian who also pushed hard to engineer a move to Spain.
A fortnight ago, against Sevilla, it was the Anfield support which had praise raining down on them for the welcome they gave Coutinho for his return appearance. Unlike Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal, there were no jeers. No whistles. Just passionate applause and a welcome back.
On Saturday, the contrast was all about the players. Two players. Coutinho and Diego Costa. Again, for those doubters of Liverpool‘s No10, just examine the behaviour of Costa and how he bulldozed his way to Atletico Madrid. Insults. Accusations. They all flew – but only from one direction. Lagarto. Brazil. Where he sat at home. AWOL from Chelsea and demanding he be sold to Atletico – and only Atletico.
On Saturday’s evidence at the KP, even the thought of lumping Coutinho’s situation alongside Costa is insulting to the man. And you fancy, this was why Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, remained steadfast throughout the summer over his star’s future.
They knew the player. Four years he’s been with the club. From a kid barely 21, who Inter Milan had wrote off, to a midfielder now rated among the best in the world. Everything in his evolution was owed to the training pitches of Melwood. Under the eyes of Liverpool coaches and staff. They knew the character. They knew the man. The club couldn’t have handled this situation better.
From the emails now made public, three offers – raised on each occasion – were tabled. And three times they were rejected. What was going on behind the scenes was just as Klopp explained to supporters throughout the transfer window. Barca would bid. And the bid would be rejected. As Klopp stated whenever pressed.
We talk about the Spanish press and how they incessantly drive a transfer on behalf of their big two – Barca and Real Madrid. But Oscar Grau, Barca’s CEO, put the Catalan press to shame with his, ahem, perseverance.
“I ask you amicably to stop harassing Coutinho publicly and privately,” responded Michael Edwards, LFC’s football director, in one email exchange. “No amount of money will change our minds.”
Of course, Barca ignored the request. Grau would be back. And thanks to Football Leaks, we know a final offer of £114m was tabled – and turned down. Which is where the squirming now begins.
Those claims of Liverpool demanding “€200m” from Josep Maria Bartomeu, the Barca president, just don’t ring true. In a week (yes it’s all that convenient timing again) when presidential rival Agusti Benedito branded him a “liar”, to have the exchange between Grau and Edward made public does Bartomeu no favours.
Nor does the size of the contract tabled to Coutinho.
At Barca. Inside the locker room. Only Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez earn more. Knowing management were willing to make Coutinho the third highest paid at the club has not gone down well with the likes of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta. Oh yeah, there’s some squirming now inside the Barca boardroom…