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Philippe Coutinho transfer could solve Liverpool dilemma but Jurgen Klopp must avoid desperate gamble – Theo Squires

Philippe Coutinho continues to be the subject of debate when it comes to Liverpool’s fanbase.

On one side there are the supporters who long to have him back at Anfield, wishing Jurgen Klopp would rescue the Brazilian from his Barcelona nightmare and rediscover the playmaker that terrorised Premier League defences on a weekly basis.

On the other, the fans who believe he has built his bed at Camp Nou and should be left to lie in it, with the 29-year-old now a pale imitation of the player who left Merseyside in January 2018 and Liverpool a far greater side than the one he left behind.

With less than three weeks left in the summer transfer window, and two years left on Coutinho’s contract, Barcelona remain desperate to offload the midfielder along with a number of other big names with Lionel Messi’s shock departure to Paris Saint-Germain not enough to solve their financial struggles.

Since leaving Liverpool, he has won two La Liga titles and two Copa Del Reys in Spain, as well as a Bundesliga title, the Champions League and the DFB-Pokal courtesy of a year on loan at Bayern Munich.

READ MORE: Jurgen Klopp speaks out over Liverpool transfer plans and names 14 players in squad hint

But he has rarely replicated his Anfield form, with Barcelona trying and failing to sell him for the past two seasons and Bayern deciding against signing him permanently following an inconsistent year in Germany.

Coutinho has often been linked with a return to the Premier League with the Reds one of a number of sides credited as potential suitors in the past along with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City and Everton.

But no such move has been forthcoming, despite his price getting lower and lower ever since signing for Barcelona in that record £142m deal, with reports earlier this summer suggesting he could even be available for as low as £20m.

Liverpool will inevitably continue to be linked with a move for their former player, as they have been ever since selling him to Barcelona in the first place, with such speculation arguably heighted by their lack of transfer activity compared to their title rivals so far.

The Reds moved quickly to sign Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig in a £36m deal back in May, but have since prioritised offloading players to raise funds and make room in their squad.

In contrast, they have seen Man City spend a Premier League record £100m on Jack Grealish and continue to be interested in Harry Kane, Chelsea move to re-sign Romelu Lukaku for £97.5m and Manchester United bring in Jadon Sancho for £73m and Raphael Varane for an initial £34m.

Klopp has recently admitted he might not yet be done in the transfer market, but admitted Liverpool will need to offload more players before they can strengthen their hand.

“I am very happy with the squad, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t look at the market,” he said after his side’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

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“But as long as nothing happens, I am more than happy with the squad I have. I am more than happy with the players I have.

“We have so many things that you cannot sign. You cannot sign our counter-pressing, you cannot sign our atmosphere that we create in the stadium, you cannot sign Anfield, you cannot sign our anthem.

“You cannot sign a lot of things and that’s what we have to use. There are other approaches out there, obviously, and we have influence on that. Our situation is like it is.

“We have a big squad and there might be something happening until the end of the transfer window, but I cannot say anything about that at the moment.”

Meanwhile, he has since told Norwegian TV: “If you want to buy such players, you have to spend a lot of money. We do not have to do that, because the players are already here.

“You have to make changes from time to time, but then there must be room to do it. We do not want more players. If something happens somewhere, something can happen somewhere else, but it makes no sense to add more players.”

Despite Liverpool’s squad already being well-stocked, there is a belief in some sections they still need to strengthen their midfield and attack, not only because of their rivals’ transfer business but having seen Gini Wijnaldum leave for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer and with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita all set to depart for Africa Cup of Nations duty in January.

And with funds and space limited, it is possible that Coutinho could become an attractive solution for the Reds.

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After all, he is capable of playing in both midfield and a front three, is familiar with Klopp’s side and would be a capable alternative in the absence of the African trio and Wijnaldum.

Meanwhile, with Barcelona in such dire financial straits, his cut-price fee or even possibility to sign him on loan could present him as a familiar, budget solution.

And it’s not like Klopp wanted Coutinho to depart in January 2018 in the first place, despite using raised funds to sign Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, having fought to retain his services six months prior.

In May 2017, Klopp advised Coutinho: “Stay here and they will end up building a statue in your honour.

“Go somewhere else, to Barcelona, to Bayern Munich, to Real Madrid, and you will be just another player. Here you can be something more.”

Having gone to both Barcelona and to Bayern Munich, Coutinho indeed found himself to be just another player.

Perhaps a return to Anfield could see him belatedly become something more.

Yet if Liverpool find themselves seriously considering a move for their former Brazilian in the next three weeks, it would be a sign that their transfer window has not gone to plan.

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The Reds have gone from strength to strength since his departure, thriving in his absence on the way to Premier League and Champions League success.

Meanwhile, their transfer business is always so well thought out, with players being monitored and longlists of potential targets drawn up months in advance.

Liverpool have had opportunities to re-sign Coutinho in the past and resisted. Any move now to bring back a player who hasn’t played in 2021 because of injury would really send out the wrong message.

He might fill Reds gaps, be available at a good price and be a familiar solution, but his plight since departing Anfield ensures he is still a gamble and one with no guarantee of rediscovering his former heights.

And if he is a gamble Liverpool end up trying to make, it only demonstrates a desperate, reactionary move late in the window, in response to their rivals, having failed to succeed in in efforts to land their first-choice targets.

Now signing players who weren’t necessarily first-choice for the Reds in the past has worked out before, with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane two of the most famous examples.

But they were both still long-term targets with their best days ahead of them rather than a scrambling last throw of the dice.

While a move for Coutinho might make more and more sense on paper as the transfer deadline draws closer, it is still a desperate gamble Liverpool simply cannot afford to make.

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