Liverpool have agreed a £142m deal with Barcelona for midfielder Philippe Coutinho in what will be one of the most expensive transfers of all time.
The Reds are expected to receive £105m up front – a British record – for the 25-year-old Brazil international, with the rest in realistic add-ons.
The final deal will be eclipsed only by the £200m Paris St-Germain paid Barcelona for Neymar last summer, and the £165.7m Kylian Mbappe will cost PSG at the end of his initial loan spell from Monaco.
Coutinho joined Liverpool from Inter Milan for £8.5m in January 2013.
He stayed behind on Merseyside while final negotiations were concluded as his Liverpool team-mates flew to Dubai for a mid-season break.
The formalities of the deal are now expected to be concluded in Spain within the next 24 hours as Coutinho finally secures the switch he has craved since the Spanish giants made their first move for him in the summer.
The last of Barcelona’s three bids was £118m – which included add-ons totalling in excess of £30m based on Coutinho winning the Ballon d’Or and other built-in clauses.
Coutinho only signed a new five-year deal, which did not include a release clause, with the Anfield club in January.
He has a minor thigh injury and missed the club’s past two games, including Friday’s FA Cup third-round win against Everton.
Coutinho will not be eligible to play for Barcelona in their Champions League last-16 tie against Juventus, having already played a key role in Liverpool’s qualification for the knockout phase.
The world’s biggest transfer deals
£200m – Neymar (Barcelona to Paris St-Germain) 2017
£165.7m – *Kylian Mbappe (Monaco to PSG – *loan deal with option to buy) 2017
£142m – Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool to Barcelona) 2018
£135.5m – Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona) 2017
£89m – Paul Pogba (Juventus to Manchester United) 2016
A British record transfer
Coutinho in profile
- Born in Rocha, Rio de Janiero on 12 June, 1992
- Began youth career at Brazilian side Vasco de Gama
- Bought by Inter Milan as a 16-year-old, but remained at Vasco on loan for two years
- Made Inter debut in 2010, but struggled to hold down a first-team place and was loaned to Espanyol
- Part of the Brazil team that won the Under-20 World Cup in 2011
- Coutinho joined Liverpool for £8.5m in January 2013
- Scored five goals in 33 games as Liverpool missed out on the title to Manchester City in 2013-14
- Netted 13 times and made seven assists in the Premier League last season to pique Barcelona’s interest
Like Zico, Ronaldinho, Messi… what they say about Coutinho
When Rafael Benitez introduced new signing Philippe Coutinho to the Italian media in the summer of 2010, he declared the Brazilian “the future of Inter Milan”.
Former Liverpool team-mate, and now Barcelona colleague, Luis Suarez said he gave the Reds “faith in having the ball”: “His technical ability is so good. You knew that he wouldn’t lose it, you knew that he would produce something special with it, that he would always chose the right pass.”
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, who coached Coutinho when he was on loan at Espanyol, said the Brazilian “has a special magic in his feet”: “Philippe has a special magic in his feet. I do think he has that same quality that Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi have.”
Former striker Careca compared Coutinho’s creative ability to that of another Brazil legend: “He reminds me of Zico.”
Coutinho, on making it as a professional, said the mental side of the game was key: “Most of the youngsters I grew up playing with do not have a career in the game now. Sometimes people think it is easy to be a footballer but it is hard work that never stops.”