Philippe Coutinho has spoken for the first time about how close he came to joining Barcelona but insists there is no agreement for him to quit Liverpool next year.
The Brazil international started his first game of the season, playing 78 minutes in the 1-1 draw with Burnley. He was given a warm ovation before the game but, with Liverpool toiling, there was not much applause for him when his number was held up for his substitution.
Coutinho was the subject of three bids from Barcelona, the last reaching £114million. Barcelona claimed after the transfer window shut that Liverpool asked for £186million on deadline day to sell him, an assertion which Liverpool quickly rubbished.
Philippe Coutinho has spoken for the first time about how close he came to joining Barcelona
Coutinho has vowed to work hard to help his club achieve their aims this season
There was an understanding in the Anfield dressing room that Coutinho – who submitted a transfer request on August 11 – wanted to move to the Nou Camp but there have been no issues since he returned to training having recovered from a back problem.
Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool’s manager, is adamant the 25-year-old will be a huge influence this season and Coutinho has vowed to work hard to help his club achieve their aims. He has admitted, though, that he was honoured to be targeted by Barcelona.
‘What happened was a job offer and, in life, sometimes you get interested,’ Coutinho told ESPN Brazil before he left Anfield. ‘Sometimes you don’t and, in my case, everyone knows that I got interested, my family too.
‘But as I have always said, it is a great offer to receive an offer from such a great club like that. But it is also a great honour being here. Liverpool is a great club worldwide. I’m here and I will give my best as always. I’m working hard, my thoughts are on the team’s goals, making a good season.’
The Brazil star admits he was interested in a move to Barcelona, who bid three times for him
Of the persistent speculation about his future, Coutinho explained: ‘It was a complicated month for me but as I have said, it is an honour to receive that offer but it is also an honour to wear this shirt, so what I can do is work hard and honour that on the field. It is all cool.’
When Liverpool last had a situation similar to this, Luis Suarez – who had been targeted by Arsenal in 2013 – gave them one more year before he moved to Barcelona for £75million and there is a feeling that Coutinho will end up doing the same.
He was asked directly by ESPN Brazil whether he would follow his friend Suarez to Camp Nou but Coutinho, who signed a five-year deal in January, replied: ‘Not that I know of. I am in a place that I have always been given respect by everyone and (I) too respect everyone.
‘I have conquered my space in four, five years and never had any problems with anyone – the fans, the board, my team-mates, the coaching staff. That has not changed. As I have said, in life, in every job you get an offer, interested or not. It is all in the past.’