John Gibbons: Liverpool must show that they are more than just a stepping stone to Barca

Coutinho may see Barca as the top rung of the ladder, but LFC must reassert its place in the football world...


It seems, here in Liverpool, we are no longer allowed nice things. Or at least not too many of them anyway. No sooner does a shiny expensive great big centre-half arrive for loads of money, we start bracing ourselves to lose a midfielder half as big but even more talented.

In Manchester they seem to collect nice things like trinkets. At Chelsea they have so many nice things they are able to casually throw many of them away, only later realising how valuable they are, yet still win league titles.

At Liverpool? Well, it’s two steps forward and then a couple back.

A top player in, another one off to Spain. Money swirling round like no one’s business and footballers with half an eye on the goal and another on the revolving door. As a friend of mine at The Anfield Wrap said this week, “We’d just signed a brilliant defender. Can’t we just be happy for a week?”

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It appears not. It should be said that, at the time of writing, Phil Coutinho is a fair way from actually joining Barcelona. They need to make a bid first, for a start, rather than just getting anyone who has ever played for Barcelona to talk about what a good player he is.

And there are rumours that Barcelona might actually be a bit skint, which is mad.

How? They should have loads of money. Did they have a big Christmas? Did Messi demand a mad present like one of the dragons from Game Of Thrones that cost a fortune? Did the office party get out of hand like when Conor McGregor came to Aintree for the races and went out for three days in Huyton?

Although it is quite nice to imagine Barcelona desperately waiting January’s pay check like the rest of us, I’m sure they will be able to find the money somewhere if need be. Banks are pretty generous to massive sporting institutions. They still might choose to spend it on civil rights campaigner Antoine Griezmann instead.

Or they might just think sod it and buy both. They are only nine points clear at the top of La Liga after all. It’s such a tough life.

Whenever Barcelona do decide to get in touch with an offer which will almost certainly include staged payments, add-ons and bonuses if Coutinho wins Best International Male at The BRIT Awards, Liverpool need to make sure they have their own strategy well in place.

Do they keep at any cost or is there an amount that would tempt us in this window? Do we try and do a deal now for the summer that keeps everyone happy and miraculously clears up Coutinho’s thigh issues, or do we hold firm with the risk of upsetting a player who, apart from a few carefully timed blag injuries, has performed well for Liverpool this season?

I am not going to pretend the world of international transfers, world class footballers, hard-faced agents and out of control egos are as easy as football fans so often make out. If Liverpool had listened to their own fans in the summer they’d have told Barcelona to fuck off, but driven the cheeky bastard to the airport themselves, played him “injured” anyway, yet made him train with the kids, made a public show off him, then made him captain and put him on £300,000 a week. No wonder the lad looks confused by it all.

Whatever the club decide is the best cause of action – and they hold a lot of the cards despite what Barcelona and the Spanish press might lead you to believe – losing Philippe Coutinho in January has to be the least favourable option. Liverpool still have so much to play for this season in the Champions League places in the Premier League, not to mention still in two cup competitions. It annoys me greatly that the day before a Merseyside Derby in the 3rd round of The FA Cup, still the best football weekend in the English calendar, I am writing about transfers at all.

As Liverpool fans we have to accept that our stock isn’t quite as high as it was when we were winning trophies for fun, and for many players, particularly South Americans, Barcelona is a more attractive option. That’s the reality, for now at least. Yet Liverpool Football Club isn’t here to train up players until Barcelona are ready to take them. We’re not a finishing school. We have our own ambitions and our own targets and right now we are in the middle of a very important season and he is a very important part of that.

Keeping players against their will can send a bad message out to existing players and potential ones.

But what message does selling your star half way through the season send out? That Liverpool’s seasons aren’t important as Barcelona’s? That we’re not serious about what we are trying to achieve? That, in Europe at least, we are just making up the numbers.

Eventually Phil Coutinho will realise his dream of playing for Barcelona, if they are willing to pay the money. But it has to be when it suits all parties and Liverpool are an equal one in that. Who knows, Phil? If you stick around a bit longer, you might even be able to take a few medals with you.

Coutinho is 7/4 on to still be at Liverpool when the January transfer window closes

What do you think?