BARCELONA, Spain – Philippe Coutinho completed his record-breaking move to Barcelona on Monday and thanked the club for its patience after the disappointment of the failed negotiations with Liverpool last year.
Liverpool rejected repeated bids in August but finally gave into Coutinho’s demands to leave after sealing a transfer deal worth up to 160 million euros ($192 million), making the Brazilian playmaker Barcelona’s costliest ever signing.
“I just want to thank the club for its patience and its effort,” Coutinho said. “I’m very happy. This is a dream come true for me, and I hope to live up to the expectations.”
Coutinho was introduced to the fans at Camp Nou after signing his contract, but his debut will be delayed by about three weeks because of a right leg muscle injury confirmed during the medical he underwent after arriving from England.
The 25-year-old Coutinho missed both of Liverpool’s games last week because of the injury which coincided with the transfer being finalized quickly at the start of the January transfer window.
Coutinho won’t be allowed to play for Barcelona in the Champions League knockout phase because he has already featured for Liverpool in the competition this season.
“I’ll have plenty of time to help the club in the future,” he said after signing a 5 1/2-year contract. “Sometimes you don’t get another opportunity like this, to join Barcelona, so I didn’t think twice.”
But Liverpool wasn’t such a willing seller.
“They understood that it was what I wanted,” Coutinho said. “They did all they could to try to keep me, but in the end they understood that it was my dream, and the dream of my family, to come here.”
Coutinho has previously played in Spain at Espanyol after being sent out on loan from Serie A club Inter Milan, which signed him as a teenager from Brazilian club Vasco da Gama.
Coutinho had hoped to be part of a Barcelona side leading the Spanish league by nine points far earlier. Liverpool refused to release him in August unless the Spanish club paid 200 million euros (then $237 million). Barcelona said that fee would have been an “irresponsible” financial risk for the club.
“It hasn’t been easy, but his desire to come and his patience were key,” club president Josep Bartomeu said. “We need to thank Liverpool as well for agreeing to negotiate, because otherwise this wouldn’t have been possible.
“We are thrilled that one of the best players in the world is now with Barcelona.”
Coutinho’s fee is surpassed only by deals negotiated in August by Paris Saint-Germain for Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
Coutinho was Barcelona’s main target after Neymar’s departure, but the club ended up signing 20-year-old France forward Ousmane Dembele after the failed negotiations with Liverpool.
Coutinho’s transfer surpasses the previous club record set by Dembele, whose fee was an initial 105 million euros ($126 million) that could eventually rise to 147 million euros ($176 million) depending on his success.
Barcelona has now reinvested the 222 million euros it received from PSG for Neymar.
“He is a great player, but we have different characteristics,” Coutinho said of fellow Brazilian Neymar. “I’m here to try to gain my space in the team.”
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