Philippe Coutinho is one of the most successful Liverpool signings of recent years, the creative Brazilian improving year on year since he joined from Inter Milan in January 2013.
However, recent rumours have linked the 25-year-old with a summer switch to Barcelona or Paris St Germain.
Here, we ask whether ambitious Liverpool can afford to let Coutinho leave Anfield.
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Coutinho took some time to get going at Anfield and after two and a half seasons had only contributed 13 Premier League goals. But something clicked in the 2015/16 campaign and he delivered 12 strikes in all competitions, turning up the heat last term with 13 in the league and nine assists across the board. Most big clubs would love to have a midfielder who can offer such figures – there would be a huge hole to fill should Coutinho take his output elsewhere.
It remains to be seen how effective Mohamed Salah, the £34.3million signing from Roma, will be at Anfield. The Egyptian winger made little impact with Chelsea before prospering with Fiorentina and then at Rome and if he brings his Eternal City form, Coutinho might even find his place under threat. They do not perform quite the same job, though, and Liverpool would be unwise to consider cutting the Brazilian loose just because Salah is on board.
One player does not make a team, of course, as Liverpool have learned when continuing to compete following the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona. Although Coutinho is a lynchpin in the first XI, Liverpool are blessed with alternatives in his position, with Georginio Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane all capable of taking his spot. The squad’s strength in depth means Ovie Ejaria, Sheyi Ojo and Harry Wilson are also primed to step up.
Any winning bid for Coutinho would likely be a hefty one – reports suggest Barca are willing to pay 80 million euros (£71million) for the Vasco da Gama academy product. With options in the midfield position already secured, Liverpool could then reinvest the transfer fee in an out-an-out striker. Danny Ings, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi have struggled to cement the role of lone frontman and with the cash from Coutinho’s sale the Reds could look at moving for the likes of Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Andrea Belotti of Torino.