Jurgen Klopp wanted Philippe Coutinho to return to Anfield but money inevitably proved the biggest stumbling block to getting a deal completed.
An insider source close to Blaugrana Central has revealed that Liverpool were interested in re-signing the Brazilian despite his desperate attempts to leave the club in January 2018.
The Catalonians signed Coutinho for £142 million and his fortune since then has turned and after spending a season on loan with European Champions Bayern Munich, his future was unclear until Ronald Koeman was appointed head coach.
Klopp is a very understanding figure and seems to really empathise with players even when they make clear their desire to leave as he proved when he re-signed Mario Götze at Borussia Dortmund and now again with Coutinho.
The 28-year-old is able to play on the left of a front-three but also in a creative role in a midfield three. In fact, it was his glittering form in the first half of the 2017/18 season that earned him a move to La Liga.
In just 20 appearances, Coutinho scored 12 goals and assisted a further 8, averaging a goal contribution per game before his departure that same season.
The Barcelona star’s ability to operate clinically both from midfield and further forward really appealed to Klopp. Coutinho’s return to Merseyside would have gifted the German manager the chance to add more creativity to a midfield that seemed to lack a cutting edge until Naby Keita showed off an improved ability to remain fit for more than a few weeks.
The biggest stumbling block to Liverpool agreeing a sensational return for the Brazil international was the money involved. In January 2019, a loan move was ultimately scuppered due to the squad role offered by Klopp and co.
Coutinho would have been used primarily for squad rotation seeing as a front three of Salah, Mane and Firmino is too good to be broken up while the current Liverpool system succeeds due to the conservative nature of its midfield which in turns allows Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold to fly forward at any given opportunity.
This summer, with the possibility of a permanent return to Anfield floated by sporting director Michael Edwards, Coutinho’s £250,000-a-week wages became a sticking point and that was even before Barcelona’s asking price of £86 million was even brought into question.
In a summer where the club is overcome by the financial repercussions of the COVID-19 enforced lockdown that saw revenue’s run dry for three months, exciting deals for Timo Werner and Thiago Alcantara have become seemingly impossible.
The former ended up moving to Chelsea where he is now earning £270,000 every week while it is painstakingly clear that Liverpool will only match Bayern Munich’s €30 million valuation if sales are made.
Given that Coutinho and Werner would both earn more than Liverpool’s current highest earners before bonuses are achieved it seems fair, if not disappointing, that neither will feature for the Reds.
Two major factors also influenced the decision for Coutinho to remain at Barcelona, with the first being the appointment of Ronald Koeman as manager as it appears to be a chance for the Brazilian to achieve his dream of being an important player for the Blaugrana.
The second is no longer relevant but for the short period of time that it seemed Lionel Messi would leave the club, Coutinho’s camp saw it as a chance for him to shine in a central role that the iconic Argentinian currently occupies.
Liverpool have signed Konstantinos Tsimikas this summer as their only arrival while Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne and Ovie Ejaria have been sold. Sheyi Ojo has left on loan, joining Reading.
It remains to be seen whether there will be any funds available to sign Thiago while Dominik Szoboszlai, Patson Daka and Ismaila Sarr are on the Reds’ radar as well.