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Transfer Talk: Man Utd prepping bid for Coutinho

Transfer Talk

Barcelona failure to land Philippe Coutinho sums up humiliating summer

It bordered on downright forehead-slappingly ludicrous at times.

Liverpool were extremely clear from the start, stating their position on Barcelona's overtures for Philippe Coutinho. "No, you can't have him," was their message. As simple as that.

And yet, the Catalans kept pushing for their man. "Coutinho wants to come, all that has to happen is Liverpool have to change their minds," explained the Barcelona media.

But despite being offered up to €150 million, the move wasn't happening.

Even as Barcelona directors worked late into the night on Thursday at the club's offices, putting together their final offer, it was as if they simply weren't hearing what Liverpool were saying.

Coutinho has a contract with Liverpool until 2022, and despite requesting a transfer and essentially refusing to play because of a back "injury," Liverpool's directors called his bluff.

It would be no surprise to see him reassimilated into Jurgen Klopp's squad in due course. He might even appear at Camp Nou this season, playing against Barcelona in the knockout phases of the Champions League.

On its own merit, the failure to sign prime transfer target Coutinho was embarrassing for Barcelona, but what's worse is that it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the club's humiliation in the transfer market this summer.

Even the two positives from the window come with asterisks and caveats.

They finally signed Ousmane Dembele after a long, drawn-out saga in which they negotiated with Borussia Dortmund until they eventually agreed to pay the price the Germans were asking for.

That was €147m, including add-ons -- enough to make Dembele, 20, a player who has played just two full seasons of professional football, the second most expensive transfer of all time before Kylian Mbappe moves to PSG next summer for €180m.

Dembele is one of the most promising prospects in world football and he could go on to become an excellent player at Barcelona, but the way the club brought him in was a further example of their ineptitude in the transfer market.

Nelson Semedo, another promising prospect at 23 and someone who may eventually be able to fill the void left by Dani Alves, was not the club's first choice.

They tried to persuade Arsenal to let go of Hector Bellerin, but over the course of a few weeks that deal broke down and they had to turn to their second target.

Philippe Coutinho is not coming to Camp Nou because Barcelona ignored clear messages from Liverpool.

Barcelona suffered ridicule when they paid €40m for Brazilian midfielder Paulinho, 29, from Guangzhou Evergrande, and not just because of the embarrassing keepy-uppy display he produced at his presentation.

This was another deal in which they were forced to pay the selling club's asking price and not a penny less, despite negotiations which seemed to stretch on endlessly. All for a player who failed to cut it in the Premier League with Tottenham.

They tried to send Andre Gomes to White Hart Lane but could not agree terms with the English side. Arda Turan is not needed at Camp Nou but no word of an exit was uttered during the final days of the window, with the Turk unwilling to move.

Barcelona also failed to sell Munir El Haddadi despite plenty of interest. At the start of the summer they held out for €30m, which no club was willing to pay, although some bids reached €20m. On Spanish deadline day, they sent him off to Alaves on loan.

There was some hope of an 11th hour move for Angel Di Maria in the closing stages of the transfer window as information leaked to journalists gathered outside the club's offices where directors were holding a meeting, but the buzz was shortlived -- to the relief of some Barca fans who have not forgotten Di Maria's behaviour in games against Barca while a Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain player -- as the club soon informed they would not be making any moves after all, declaring that "the market has gone crazy."

It was one final debacle in a thoroughly embarrassing transfer window.

As well as disruption in Liverpool, the Catalans caused chaos in Nice, negotiating with Jean Michael Seri and then changing their mind at the last minute, leaving the player heartbroken and with huge wounds to stitch up between him and his club.

Perhaps only Gerard Deulofeu's return made sense, with the club able to use their buy-back clause to sign him for €12m from Everton, though he will make little more than a squad player for Valverde.

"They've fallen asleep," Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez said of Barca's board in an interview with Marca. "They have signed players that don't fit the system."

This was an ugly, aimless transfer window, with too many cooks spoiling the broth.

President Josep Maria Bartomeu likes to get involved in negotiations, with sporting director Robert Fernandez holding the most responsibility in the market.

But then come Albert Soler, Jordi Cardoner, Pep Segura, Raul Sanllehi and Ariedo Braida, club directors who also have roles to play. It's a complicated mess, and no wonder Barcelona seemed at times to be pulling in different directions.

It is not yet a crisis, although if former presidential candidate Agusti Benedito is successful with his motion to put the board to a vote of no confidence, it could soon develop into one. And few Barcelona fans will have confidence in the club's transfer market nous after this summer.

Richard Martin covers FC Barcelona for ESPN FC. Twitter: @rich9908.


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