Barcelona and Liverpool have agreed to a deal for Philippe Coutinho, and the Brazilian midfielder will travel to Spain Saturday to complete his move.
The fee is reportedly $192.5 million, higher than the offer Barcelona was reportedly readying earlier in the week.
Coutinho was reportedly en route to Spain on Saturday evening, and the deal is expected to be announced within 24 hours. He did not travel with Liverpool to Dubai, and has missed Liverpool’s past two games.
Barcelona will reportedly pay Liverpool $144.3 million up front, with the remaining $48.1 million based on performance-related incentives. It will also reportedly sign Coutinho to a five-and-a-half-year contract with a buyout clause of over $481 million.
The Spanish giants wasted little time in welcoming their new signing:
Bem-vindo! Welcome! Benvingut! ¡Bienvenido!
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 6, 2018
The fee will make Coutinho the third-most expensive player ever, behind Neymar ($267 million) and Kylian Mbappe ($216 million) once the Mbappe deal is completed next summer. He’ll also be the most expensive player in Barcelona history, ahead of Ousmane Dembele ($176 million), and the most expensive player ever sold or bought by a British club.
When Barcelona sold Neymar to PSG over the summer, it immediately made Coutinho one of its top targets. The international teammates aren’t carbon copies of each other, so Coutinho wasn’t and isn’t a like-for-like replacement, but he fills the attacking creativity void created by Neymar’s departure.
The Catalan club went hard after Coutinho in the summer, putting in nine-figure bids for the playmaker, but Liverpool initially refused to sell. It was so steadfast in its determination to keep Coutinho for one more season that its owners, Fenway Sports Group, at one point released an official statement saying the club would not consider any offers. Liverpool temporarily warded off Barca’s interest, welcomed Coutinho back into the fold in September, and benefited from his excellent performances over the first half of the season.
The prospect of the deal made far more sense as a summer 2018 transfer than as a January one. Coutinho will be ineligible to play in the 2018 Champions League knockout rounds for Barcelona, who likely would have been able to walk to a La Liga title even without him. On the other hand, Coutinho was integral to Liverpool in the fierce top-four battle in the Premier League. Liverpool likely wanted to hold out for five more months.
[More FC Yahoo: Why Coutinho to Barca made more sense as a summer deal]
But the player’s desire to join Barcelona seemingly proved to be too much.
“It is no secret that Philippe has wanted this move to happen since July, when Barcelona first made their interest known,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said in a statement. “Philippe was insistent with me, the owners and even his teammates this was a move he was desperate to make happen.”
Barcelona upped its offer, and reportedly made the performance-based incentives more achievable. Momentum built over the past week, with Coutinho and his camp trying to force the move over the line. It appears their push has finally been successful.
More on Coutinho, Barcelona and Liverpool:
- Why both Liverpool and Barcelona were better off holding the deal for the summer
- Schaerlaeckens: Liverpool’s eternal talent drain continues
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