Philippe Coutinho is justifying the massive price tag Liverpool have placed on him as Barcelona continue to monitor his situation ahead of the January transfer window, says former England defender Rio Ferdinand.
The ex-Manchester United centre-half appeared as a BT Sport panellist after Liverpool routed Spartak Moscow 7-0 in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, where Coutinho bagged a hat-trick (h/t Daily Star's Marc Williams):
“When they were talking about the fee for him if Barcelona or etc were going to try and buy him, £130-£140m, the only thing you would say is ‘is he going to get enough goals to warrant that?’ In this form, it suggests yes. He’s got to continue in this vein of form of scoring goals.
“He is the manipulator, he gets things going, everything goes through him in terms of going forward and the creativity in this team.
“He’s a fantastic footballer, great brain.”
It's well-founded Barca were looking to push a deal for Coutinho over the line in the summer. The Guardian's Ed Aarons reported a late £138 million bid for the Brazilian, which was rejected.
Coutinho also made his affection for Barca clear by handing in a transfer request in August, and his failure to dismiss talk of a January move after Wednesday's win will be of concern to some Liverpool fans:
ITV Football @itvfootball
Philippe Coutinho has pledged to give his all to @LFC but refused to commit his future to the club 🔴 | https://t.co/z0yXUqTPOD https://t.co/CNW1NXeYWM2017-12-7 20:30:03
Ferdinand is right in that since the past summer's transfer turmoil and Barcelona's numerous reported bids, Coutinho has got back to what he does best, with nine goals and six assists in 14 games across all competitions.
He has helped manager Jurgen Klopp form one of the deadliest attacks in the game at the moment, which football writer Andrew Beasley recently illustrated as one of devastating potential:
Andrew Beasley @BassTunedToRed
Liverpool with Coutinho, Firmino, Mané and Salah on the pitch together: 281 minutes. 12 goals scored. Goal every 23 minutes.2017-12-7 10:26:58
The Daily Star's Jack Staplehurst cited a report from Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo, which said Coutinho negotiated with Liverpool to set a £128 million price tag should Barca come calling this winter.
That figure, distributed in the right amounts, could be tempting for the Merseysiders, although former Reds striker Craig Bellamy outlined his importance to the team, per Sky Sports:
Sky Sports PL @SkySportsPL
WATCH: How will Philippe Coutinho's #LFC career pan out? #TheDebate on Sky Sports Premier League now. https://t.co/PpAaIr7PiL2017-12-6 22:08:30
Coutinho leads Liverpool in assists, average key passes, shots, crosses and dribbles per game, not to mention he's been fouled more than any other first-team player, a demonstration of how essential he is at Anfield, per WhoScored.com.
This January transfer market will force Liverpool's owners, Fenway Sports Group, to weigh up what they value and whether losing Coutinho is worth that price, with Ferdinand backing the star to warrant such a hefty cost.