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 By Steven Kelly

Delicate situation between Coutinho and Liverpool will test Jurgen Klopp

Despite an extra day of tension waiting for Spain's transfer window to close, Liverpool were true to their word. They had no intention of letting Philippe Coutinho join Barcelona this summer.

It's such a cynical era for media and supporters alike when most will have thought the intransigence was a ploy to extract more money from the buying club. That isn't a knock at media or fans, either. They've witnessed countless examples in the past of clubs claiming their player wasn't for sale at any price, when in fact he was.

It was difficult for fans to get a handle on this one, as diverse assessments of the situation came from varied sources dependent upon which club they favoured.

There's also the small matter of the player's own wishes. Coutinho clearly still hankers after the move. "Players usually get what they want in the end," goes the saying.

Not this time, and in numerous cases across Europe too. The Reds did land Naby Keita from a stubborn RB Leipzig but still need to wait another season to use the Guinean international.

Would Liverpool have done the Coutinho deal for the right price if they'd time to land two more players with the money? They'll publicly claim otherwise, but if he continues to express a preference for Barcelona, they'll have to consider it sooner or later.

The debacle forced fans to debate one crucial issue: Was Coutinho really irreplaceable and deserving of such obstinacy? The answer to that is probably "No, but he could turn out to be."

If he does move up yet another level, you'd rather it was in a red shirt, not red and blue. Fans less convinced of his brilliance pointed to times under Brendan Rodgers in 2013-14 when, with the Reds challenging for the title, the Brazilian was sometimes hauled off whenever he'd had no impact on a game.

Even last season, he had a two-month spell in the second half of the campaign where he found the going tough. That was partially explained by being brought back after injury during a bad spell for the team as a whole, but it was still a factor when fans and pundits argued if he really was worth the kind of attention and money Barcelona claim they were offering.

There's further evidence of a cynical age when people now question if Coutinho will knuckle down and do his best for Liverpool or simply go through the motions until he gets his own way. He wants to team up with Luis Suarez at the Camp Nou. The latter's level of commitment and skill never once diminished after he was denied a move to Arsenal in the summer of 2013. Perhaps his demeanour might have altered had Barcelona been the original pursuers, not the perennially underachieving Londoners.

Liverpool now must reintegrate Philippe Coutinho after Barcelona failed to land the wantaway Brazilian.

It may also affect Coutinho's demeanour if the Catalan giants don't come back for him. It seems improbable they won't but it did look as though they were stung into action after being outmanoeuvred by Neymar and Paris Saint-Germain, added to suggestions Lionel Messi may want to leave too.

Barcelona claimed Liverpool were always willing to sell. Even if that were true, there were counter-claims that so many ridiculous add-ons were attached to the same basic £80 million fee the deal was never completely legitimate in the first place; a public display for increasingly disgruntled fans.

Whatever the truth, it has put a dampener on a generally optimistic mood at Anfield. The Reds have played well without Coutinho, but it cannot be denied the prospect of the Brazilian playing just behind a rampant Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah was mouth-watering.

Jurgen Klopp faces a great test of his people skills. He'll hope the player is still eager to impress, but whom? Barcelona? They weren't perturbed by the prospect of another long ban for Suarez after he bit Giorgio Chiellini in the 2014 World Cup. They're arrogant enough to assume a player like Coutinho will do all in his power to force the move through, and expect a switch back to brilliance once he was secured.

Some say Brazil coach Tite prefers players who have regular club outings but Coutinho now looks a fixture in his team and seems primarily worried about the player's personal happiness.

It's yet another transfer distraction when Liverpool appear to be building a reasonable side. In 2009, Xabi Alonso left for Real Madrid. In 2014, Suarez joined Barcelona.

An effortless 4-0 destruction of an admittedly poor Arsenal suggests Coutinho's departure might not damage the Reds as much as others before him.

He's staying, though. The presence of an unhappy star while Liverpool are trying to compete on four fronts this season could still harm their cause if the situation is not handled correctly.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.


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