Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho reportedly won't move to Barcelona or Real Madrid in the summer, according to Spanish football expert Guillem Balague. The Sky Sports analyst doesn't think either of La Liga's biggest clubs have Coutinho on their radar just yet.
Separate reports in Spain have also said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp won't even entertain offers for his talented schemer this summer.
Balague was answering Twitter questions for Sky Sports when he addressed the issue of Coutinho's immediate future. He began by discussing the obstacles for any potential deal facing both clubs: "He needs a bit more glamour for Real Madrid to have big, big interest. For Barcelona, they need to decide what to do with Arda Turan, and then they have to decide whether a player like Coutinho fits in that team."
Focusing on Barcelona, Balague doesn't believe Coutinho would have an obvious place at the Camp Nou: "The problem with Coutinho as a No 10, he hasn't got a place in a Barcelona 4-3-3. He has to play wide, or play deeper, but that isn't his role, so it's difficult to find a place for him."
There's something to Balague's logic here. After all, Barca's ranks are brimming with gifted attacking midfielders and creative types. Andres Iniesta may be 32, but he's still as gifted as any pass-master in Europe.
Iniesta is far from the only playmaker Barcelona are able to count on, though. Ivan Rakitic has redefined his game since signing from Sevilla to become a useful source of goals from advanced areas.
The Catalan club also shelled out an initial £29.3 million to sign Andre Gomes from Valencia in the summer. He was joined by Denis Suarez, who was brought back from Villarreal.
Suarez is a tricky and intelligent flair player who can glide past markers and pick passes between the lines with either foot. The 22-year-old's presence ensures Barca are set for the future at the attacking midfield positions.
Even if they weren't, Balague believes Coutinho's cost would be prohibitive for both Barcelona and bitter rivals Los Blancos: "Let's see who the manager is at Barcelona next season, or if Luis Enrique continues, but certainly he would be so expensive that I couldn't see Barca coming in for him just yet. At the moment, neither of them are in the equation, but let's see how things progress."
Of course, the question of Coutinho leaving for Spain's top flight or elsewhere could be a non-starter already, especially when Klopp is likely to turn down any offers, according to Spanish source Diario Madridista (h/t Alex Wood of the Daily Star).
The reports note how both Barca, Real and Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain are keen on the midfielder priced at close to a whopping £67 million. Wood's article also cited a report from Spanish publication Sport revealing Coutinho wants to move to the Camp Nou, but Barca haven't always be as keen: "Coutinho's agent, Kia Joorabchian, made contact with Barca last year - but the La Liga side informed him that their attacking options were well stocked."
Coutinho has made tremendous strides during the last two seasons. In particular, the former Espanyol and Inter Milan man has been thriving in the ultra-fluid style Klopp is preaching at Anfield.
The German insists on a game dependent on constant and perceptive movement. Quick rotations, even quicker counters and rapid and artful combinations of passes in the final third are the keys to Liverpool's free-scoring approach.
The Reds have translated this mantra into 30 goals, the most in the Premier League this season, according to the division's official site. Coutinho has contributed five goals and as many assists to that output, per WhoScored.com. He's been exceptional in a rotating front three alongside fellow Brazilian Roberto Firmino and Senegalese winger Sadio Mane.
So it makes sense for Klopp to try and keep the 24-year-old at Anfield for as long as possible. The Reds are legitimate title contenders this season but only as long as their South American maestro continues to pull the strings.