The Philippe Coutinho will-he won’t-he saga continues to drag on. Liverpool insists he is not for flogging. Barcelona sticks their fingers in their ears and hums a favorite tune.
It is a chronicle which overshadows everything Liverpool do at the moment. All the questions journalists want to ask are about the Brazilian. And every game they play team news is caveated with his absence. Due to a genuine injury, naturally.
Hell, there’s even a betting market for where Coutinho will be plying his trade after the transfer window – which slams shut next Thursday. Skybook and Betmania make him a +200 shot to be in Catalonia.
That seems a generous price if you are a keen student of such tugs-of-war. So far Liverpool’s denials have been bordering on the heretic. They have sounded so strong on rebuffing Barcelona that one could be forgiven for reckoning that they really will stick to their guns.
But they are merely sticking to the script. In these days of player power, Coutinho holds all the aces. And Liverpool know it. They are fully aware that if they denied him a dream move to one of three biggest clubs in the world, they would be harming themselves not once but twice.
For a start Coutinho would sulk if he stayed behind. He would be half the player. His value would drop. And so would Liverpool. Secondly, stopping a player moving to Barcelona hurts their chances of attracting other players in the market.
This is Liverpool’s level. They are a feeder club – look at Luis Suarez – to the top three in the world with the big reputations and the big cheques – Barca, Real Madrid and PSG. Just as every other club in the Premier League are.
And in truth, Neymar’s move to Paris surely proved that there is no such thing as a club which doesn’t have to sell anymore. Chairmen and managers can call out “he’s not for sale” until they’re blue in the face. They’re just trying to drive up the price to an obscene maximum.
At times like this it is a wonder as to whether the reported fourth bid of £138 million is an absolute steal for the Reds. So just how important is Coutinho to Liverpool? Surely with this robust stance they couldn’t possible carry on without him?
Nope. He hardly makes any difference at all to whether they win a match. Well, this was true last season. In 2016-17 Liverpool’s win percentage with Coutinho was 58 per cent as opposed to 56 per cent without.
Get this, the previous season Coutinho played and Liverpool won 39 per cent of the time. When he didn’t play they won 44 per cent of the time.
Now, there may be some folk who reckon that Liverpool are poor value for a win against Arsenal on Sunday because Coutinho is likely to miss out. They might think again. Liverpool are +121 with 888Bet for the three points.