The Brazil midfielder, who has been the subject of two failed bids from Barcelona, sent an email to Liverpool’s sporting director Michael Edwards on Friday lunchtime to say he wanted to quit the club. It was immediately rejected.
Coutinho’s demand came on a dramatic day for Liverpool, which started with Fenway Sports Group, the club’s American owners, issuing a statement to say they would not sanction the 25-year-old’s sale at any price and considered the matter closed.
Jurgen Klopp then relayed a similar message in his press conference and left the Melwood training ground thinking a line had been drawn under the issue.
But soon after, Sky Sports reported that Coutinho had made a move to engineer his departure.
Liverpool immediately rubbished the story. However, it has emerged the broadcaster had been told what was going to happen before the email was sent to Edwards.
The club had dreaded such a development and the timing, ahead of today’s trip to Watford and the Champions League play-off in Hoffenheim on Tuesday, could hardly be worse.
Coutinho, who is set to miss both of those games with a back injury, had not wanted to take this drastic action, but feels he has no choice. A close family member was quoted as saying: ‘Philippe has tried very hard to find an amicable solution to this situation but to no avail. He has tremendous love for the club and its fans.
‘But as Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez have pointed out in the past, Liverpool does not let its players leave on amicable terms.’
More worryingly for Liverpool, the family member explained that his relationship with Klopp has fractured, saying that he ‘does not have the trust of his manager’.
The family member added: ‘There are things that have happened, there is not the same bond. It is regretful, but that is the case. There is no going back.’
Barcelona will be encouraged to return, perhaps even offering a player as well as cash, after bids of £72million and £90m were rebuffed. Coutinho has his heart set on the move, and that is well known within Liverpool’s dressing room.
But there is also a belief within the group that Liverpool will not cave in to Coutinho, who has been reminded he must maintain professional standards at all times and not let his discipline slip.
In the last eight years, Liverpool have seen a succession of top players lured away — Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling — and they cannot afford to lose this battle, which was emphasised by the tone of FSG’s statement.
It read: ‘We wish to offer clarity as regards our position on a possible transfer of Philippe Coutinho. The club’s definitive stance is that no offers for Philippe will be considered and he will remain a member of Liverpool Football Club when the summer window closes.’
The message from Anfield has been consistent throughout and even if they were to receive a huge windfall, they would not be able to recruit a comparable replacement. It was a subject Klopp alluded to before learning that Coutinho had submitted his request.
‘I had to sell a lot of players in my managerial career,’ said the former Borussia Dortmund boss. ‘Some had clauses, some had no clauses.Everything is about timing – whichever club asks early enough.
‘But you cannot come up, close to the start of the season with things like this.
‘The club is bigger than anybody. It’s about doing it in the right moment. It’s how we try do it when we want to bring players in.
‘Maybe everybody has a price – in the right moment. In the wrong moment? No price.’