Philippe Coutinho would be the “perfect replacement” for Neymar at Barcelona, says South American football expert Tim Vickery, according to report.
Neymar has asked to leave Barca and was given permission on Wednesday to miss training, with Paris Saint-Germain prepared to meet his £198m release clause.Sky sources understand Barca are confident of signing Coutinho but Liverpool insist they will not sell their Brazil international.
Asked if Coutinho would be the perfect replacement for Neymar, Vickery told Sky Sports News: “Absolutely. When Barcelona were interested in Coutinho previously, I saw speculation suggesting they saw him as a possible replacement for Andres Iniesta.
“I have never seen that. I have always seen Coutinho as a Neymar replacement. “Coutinho’s problem with the Brazil national team is his favourite position is Neymar’s position, wide on the left cutting onto his right foot. They have since found space for him on the right but that’s his favoured position.”
Liverpool signed Coutinho from Inter Milan in 2013 for £8.5m and he has gone on to become one of the Premier League’s best players. Sky sources understand Barca believe an offer in the region of €100m (£89m) will be enough to convince Liverpool to sell and Vickery says that profit would represent a “fantastic deal” for the Reds in business terms.
“They picked him out for a song when Inter Milan had more or less given up on him,” Vickery added. “It would be a fantastic piece of business for Liverpool. You are talking an incredible profit in business terms but in football terms, Jurgen Klopp is building his side around Coutinho.
“You have a psychological game in play. There are few things more useless in football than having a footballer that doesn’t want to play for you. “Do you cash in? On the other hand he’s under contract, a good professional and it’s a World Cup year. It is important for Coutinho to keep playing.
“The Premier League is hugely popular in Brazil, where even lesser sides have huge fan groups, and what Coutinho has done with Liverpool has really raised his profile. “He went [to Europe] very early, much earlier than Neymar for example, who was a big star in Brazil and a winner of the Copa Libertadores.
“Coutinho is a very high-profile player already but he would increase that profile even further at Barcelona.”