Chelsea have emerged as favourites to land Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho after Bayern Munich opted not to exercise an option to buy. The former Liverpool man has spent the second half of this season on loan at the German giants, but they aren’t interested in meeting the £110million asking price.
Barcelona have made it clear that Coutinho is surplus to requirements after he failed to impress following his move from Liverpool in January 2018.
They are willing to take a massive hit on the £105m they paid upfront for the 27-year-old and could accept as little as £80m.
But the coronavirus crisis means that few clubs will be willing to invest such large sums in players after being starved of income for almost three months.
Frank Lampard is in the market for a big-name signing and Coutinho is a player they have been paying close attention to.
Barcelona have indicated they are maybe willing to do business on another loan deal, but it will cost a loan fee of £10m-plus all of his £250,000-a-week wages.
Coutinho has turned down Leicester, while Newcastle, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have all been offered him.
And his agent Kia Joorabchian has made it clear the South American wants to return to the Premier League.
He told Sky Sports: “Everything is a possibility. After the Champions League game he played in England [against Chelsea] we had a long chat about it.
“The Premier League is something that he has always enjoyed playing in, and loved playing in, and would probably love to come back and play in.
“The question is what are going to be the financial conditions of all the clubs, including Barcelona and all the Premier League clubs at the end of this pandemic.”
Former United and Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov insists it is “sad” that Coutinho’s stock has deteriorated so badly, but believes the Red Devils should steer clear of the No 10.
He told Betfair: “Coutinho is in a difficult position at the moment, he was doing so well at Liverpool, he was unbelievable and he got a dream move to Barcelona, which he really pushed for.
“Although I think he did well there, I don’t think Barcelona gave him enough time to show what he can really do and in the end he chose to go to Bayern Munich to play a bit more, but overall he hasn’t been producing his best football since his time at Liverpool.
“It is sad to see him in this situation, but it happens all the time and when you move from one club to another and can’t show the form that you had previously. You have to ask how does he come back from it and what has caused this.
“He is the same player, he has been playing with really talented players, some of them even better than the ones he played with at Liverpool and it hasn’t worked out. I look back at it and if you played for a big club like Liverpool, was it really necessary to move to Barcelona?
“He was producing great football with these players under a great manager, but he probably wanted to play with [Lionel] Messi and [Luis] Suarez, Barcelona is Barcelona.
“I was hoping that he would do well with Bayern Munich but they aren’t going to keep him, now he is going to go somewhere else and hopefully he can produce the form that he showed at Liverpool, even if that means taking a step back to play regularly and recapture his form and take two steps forward.
“That will be key, we are all human beings and he knows very well that at Barcelona and Bayern Munich he wasn’t good enough.
“It will be heavy on his mind and to have an extension rejected by Munich will be tough for him to accept, now he needs to go to a club where the manager will trust him and he will play regularly.
“There have been a lot of Premier League clubs linked with him, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle and even Manchester United, but sometimes the obvious choice isn’t always the correct one.
“Everyone thought he would do great when he moved to Barcelona but it didn’t work out, sometimes you need to step back to go forwards, he will go to a good team there is no question about that, but he needs the trust of a manager to believe in him and make him the main man so that he can play calm and be free to do what he does.
“Other people will see him linked with a move to United and they will point out his connections with Liverpool and how he would never be forgiven if he switched to Old Trafford, but honestly, United don’t need him right now.
“Bruno Fernandes is a very similar player; he really hit the ground running and looks to be a very promising signing so I don’t think there would be any point in United signing him.
“[Paul] Pogba is coming back, Fernandes is there, [Scott] McTominay is producing great football as well, they have enough quality there so signing Coutinho would be pointless.”