BARCELONA — Liverpool have refuted Barcelona’s claims that they were quoted a price of €200 million for Philippe Coutinho as absolutely false, sources close to the Premier League club said on Saturday.
At a news conference earlier in the day, Barcelona sporting director Robert and director Albert Soler told a news conference that Coutinho was too expensive and they were not prepared to get involved in an inflated market, despite allegedly being told what they could buy the Brazilian for with only hours left of the window.
“On Friday, after weeks of offers and talks, Liverpool put a price on the player that we wanted [Coutinho],” Soler said on Saturday.
“A price of €200m and we decided we wouldn’t do it. That’s an example of the way football is now. This club and this board will not get involved in that, though. What’s happened in the transfer market this summer has taken us to a totally different model of football which we’re not used to.”
Despite Liverpool knocking back three previous bids, Barca made a fourth offer for Coutinho late on Thursday, thought to be worth around €150m including add-ons, but were once again told the Brazil international was not for sale.
After losing Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for €222m, Barca struggled to land their main targets, with clubs aware of how much money they had to spend and their need to replace the Brazilian.
They did, eventually, agree a fee with Borussia Dortmund worth an initial €105m for Ousmane Dembele, but Soler said the board will not put the club at risk by paying over the odds for players and suggested UEFA should take a look at how the market has changed.
“Countries have become the principle agents in the world of football,” he added. “We haven’t wanted to put the club at risk, a club of 150,000 members which is ran responsibly.
“We’re in a market where a goalkeeper has gone for €50m. We won’t get involved in that. We won’t put the club at risk. UEFA and the ECA have to take a decision and reflect on what’s going on.
“We don’t usually talk about how the negotiations go. Liverpool put €200m on the table and we did not accept it. We appreciate the effort that the player made to come [by handing in a transfer request], but we can’t do anything else now.”
Barca had also been linked with a deadline day move for Angel Di Maria, but sources said that fell through.
This summer the club signed Marlon Santos — who has since been loaned to Nice — Gerard Deulofeu, Nelson Semedo, Paulinho and Ousmane Dembele. But have been widely criticised for their moves after Neymar left to join PSG, though Soler remained bullish.
“Barca have not lost their international prestige by having common sense and being responsible,” he said. “That’s not losing, it’s winning. The members deposit confidence in the people they vote in, the people they considered the best to run the club.
“In Spain, players have clauses. You know what they cost. So you have to think about two things: if the player wants to come and if the club can afford the deal. It’s different in other European markets and that’s a handicap which we encountered. We all have to play by the same rules and we’re not.”