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Why Barcelona pushed so hard to sign Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool in January and not the summer

Barcelona finally got their man after months of trying - but why were they so intent on signing him now rather than the summer?

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Sunday 07 January 2018 12:33 GMT
Winter transfer window: Ten players looking for a move in January

If the feeling for many around Liverpool and Barcelona was that Philippe Coutinho’s move to Camp Nou was always inevitable there remains one big question as the saga finally comes to a close: why did the Liga leaders go so strong to do it now and not in the summer?

Why potentially irritate who you’re doing business with? Why not look to just strike the longer-term deal? Why possibly unsettle what had seemed a sensible deal?

And this is the thing. So many do find it confusing. It was the inevitable and the obvious, yet undercut by the unclear. So why?

The first reason is obviously that Coutinho himself was desperate to go. The word from those close to him was that he “would do anything in the world to get there”. He was that intent on the deal now, and some of this is obviously Barca wanting to act on that great desire and have a future star as happy as possible.

That said, those same people close to him didn't think he would literally do “anything” to get there, mind. They did not feel he would outright go on strike, despite some of the suggestions, because he would almost certainly be there by the summer either way.

That raises something about Coutinho himself, too. He isn’t a Luis Suarez personality in that way. He wouldn’t just dig in and do anything possible to get his way like the Uruguayan, although Coutinho’s wife Aine is hugely keen on the move.

Barca themselves aren’t quite in the same situation as they were when they signed Suarez in 2014. They just aren’t as flush. There is now a much greater requirement to balance the books.

Nike's website listed Coutinho as a Barcelona player earlier this week (Getty)

While there was some talk that Liverpool should have waited until after the World Cup because Coutinho’s price might go up even more, that is then precisely what the Catalans didn’t want. They wanted to get it secured to avoid that.

Much has been made of the amount brought in from Neymar’s move to Paris-Saint-Germain but the majority of that has already gone on bringing in Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund and - much more importantly and historically - securing the future of Leo Messi.

This Coutinho deal is also about legacy in another way, as it is to bring in the ideal long-term successor to Andres Iniesta, but there is an immediacy there too. After their surge to a commanding position at the top of the Spanish table in the first half of the season, Barca now feel even more could be on and they could reclaim the Champions League this season. Coutinho is cup-tied - and the potential individual frustrations of that are another angle there - but his mere presence means Iniesta will not be used as much in what is a thin squad, and will now be fresher for continental matches.

 Coutinho was desperate to leave for Barcelona this month 

A lot of that makes sense from a football and business perspective, then, but still not necessarily from a negotiation perspective. More than most clubs, this Liverpool hierarchy does not like the sense they’re being bullied, and justifiably dug in. The pure businessman in John W Henry is said to almost take such impositions as an affront.

If they sold, as one figure put it, it was always only going to be on their terms. Barca were always determined to change those terms and now they've got their man.

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