“Barcelona and Real Madrid, will come looking for Philippe (Coutinho) in a few more seasons, just like they did with Luis (Suarez).” This was the view of Steven Gerrard in his new book, My Story - as per the Mail.
But are Barcelona already interested in the Brazilian playmaker?
Coutinho, 23, has been the shining light in a difficult 18 months for Liverpool and is fulfilling his vast potential.
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Both Barcelona and Real Madrid have been accused of talking up potential targets, sometimes in a bid to unsettle the player in question.
Last May, Ronaldinho was glowing in his praise of Coutinho, and commented that Coutinho would be perfect for Barcelona: “I can’t speak for him and I can’t speak for Barcelona - but I know what Barcelona look for in a player and he has all those qualities.”
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This might be shrugged off by some as an innocent observation, but the links to Barcelona didn't end there. As recently as last week, Neymar said: "I see many Brazilian players with quality today. But one that I like and I think could play here is Coutinho. He has the style of Barcelona."
Admittedly, this is far from conclusive proof that a Barcelona bid is imminent. However, when we gaze back through recent history, both Madrid and Barca have deployed similar tactics when in pursuit of Premier League targets.
Take Luka Modric. In August 2012, the diminutive Croatian playmaker moved from Spurs to Madrid in a deal worth around £30 million.
This transfer took place after Madrid courted the player for some time, and Madrid talked up the player before the move.
When asked about Modrić in 2012, Aitor Karanka (then assistant manager at Madrid) replied: "Which club would not want a player like him?
"He is an outstanding footballer and had a great tournament (Euro 2012). It is clear that he would fit in Madrid."
Madrid's protracted and public pursuit of Gareth Bale is another example of such tactics. Figures at Madrid, on both the coaching and playing staff, talked up Bale during the pursuit.
Ironically, Modrić himself was involved in this. He stated that Bale would 'fit perfectly' into the Madrid team: "Since Madrid is the team of the galaxy, Bale would fit perfectly, we could really use him."
Zinedine Zidane also failed to quash the rumours: "I think Real Madrid have made their admiration of Gareth Bale very clear - and it has been made clear that we would not be put off by the cost of the player."
More worryingly for Liverpool fans, figures at Camp Nou were also talking up Luis Suarez before his eventual departure to Barcelona in 2014. Barca had long been linked with the Uruguayan, and players and club officials alike spoke about Suarez before the move.
After Suarez' infamous bite on Giorgio Chiellini, Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said: “I am not analysing the Luis Suarez issue from the Barca point of view, but having the character and humility to recognise an error is important,” which seemed to attempt to justify Barcelona's interest in the player.
Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic also commented on Suarez in the aftermath of the biting incident: "The fact he has had the character and the strength to go in front of everyone and say sorry says a lot about him as a person.
"Not every person has that strength to admit they have done something stupid.
‘Regardless of whether the club signs him or not, his quality is unquestionable."
Inevitably, Suarez signed for Barcelona for £75 million soon after, and Liverpool fans were left bemoaning his departure.
In light of the recent past, should Liverpool fans be worried about Coutinho? Are recent comments a coincidence, or are Barcelona stepping up their interest in the Brazilian, whose stock continues to rise?
Do you think Barcelona are interested in Coutinho? Leave your comments below.
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