NEW YORK (AP) – Liverpool will rebuff any bids for Philippe Coutinho in this transfer window, the club’s American owners said on Friday, in the latest blow to Barcelona in its attempts to replace Neymar.
Fenway Sports Group backed up this “definitive stance,” which was announced in a short statement, by reportedly rejecting a transfer request submitted by the Brazil playmaker hours later.
Barcelona is looking for a replacement for Neymar, who was sold to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record fee of 222 million euros ($262 million) last week.
Barcelona has made two offers for Coutinho, the latest reportedly being 100 million euros. That was rejected on Wednesday.
“The club’s definitive stance is that no offers for Philippe will be considered,” FSG said, “and he will remain a member of Liverpool Football Club when the summer window closes.”
Borussia Dortmund said on Thursday it turned down a bid from Barcelona for France forward Ousmane Dembele, who subsequently missed a training session with the German club.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp has repeatedly said the club will not be selling the 25-year-old Coutinho, who has become a key player for the Premier League team and Brazil in recent years. Liverpool will compete in the Champions League playoffs this month in an attempt to seal a return to Europe’s premier club competition.
“I can’t keep players happy. That’s how life is,” Klopp said at a news conference on Friday, a day before Liverpool begins the Premier League season with a game at Watford.
Coutinho is unavailable for the match, with Liverpool saying the playmaker has a back injury. He is also a doubt for the first leg of Liverpool’s Champions League qualifying playoff against Hoffenheim in Germany on Tuesday.
“Phil is not available for us and that for me is the bigger issue,” Klopp said. “All the rest is just between me and all the boys, not just Phil.”
Liverpool sold Luis Suarez to Barcelona in 2014 after the Uruguay striker pushed for a move away from Anfield. Coutinho, who joined Liverpool from Inter Milan in 2013, hadn’t publicly agitated to leave before Friday.
“The board want him to stay, this is not a situation where Liverpool need money or to cash in,” Liverpool great Steven Gerrard, the club under-18 coach, said this week about the Coutinho situation.
“We’re not a selling club so they’re going to do everything in their power for him to stay. But at the end of the day it comes down to Philippe Coutinho and his decision, what he’s prepared to do, what type of war he’s prepared to create to get out because Liverpool won’t make it easy for him.”
Coutinho, who was Liverpool’s leading scorer with 14 goals in all competitions last season, signed a new five-year deal in January.