BARCELONA, Spain — Philippe Coutinho is joining Barcelona after Liverpool agreed Saturday to sell the Brazilian in a deal that makes him one of the most expensive players in soccer history.
Barcelona did not reveal the cost of the deal for the 25-year-old playmaker but a person familiar with the details told The Associated Press that the transfer is worth 160 million euros (USD $192 million).
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly about the deal, which would be a club record for Barcelona.
Coutinho’s transfer cost is only surpassed by Paris Saint-Germain’s acquisition of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe last summer. Barcelona has now reinvested the 222 million euro windfall it received from PSG following Neymar’s world-record transfer to the French club in August.
Barcelona said Coutinho will sign a contract for the rest of the ongoing season and five more seasons. He still needs to finalize personal terms and pass a medical examination.
Liverpool rejected three bids from Barcelona for Coutinho in August and hoped to convince him to stay beyond this season. He even captained the side in recent games.
The Spanish league leaders broke their own transfer record to sign France forward Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund in August for a fee of 105 million euros that could rise to 147 million euros. Barcelona hoped to sign Coutinho at the same time but it has taken until the January transfer window to convince Liverpool to sell one of its most creative players.
Barcelona said in September that it rejected a last-minute offer by Liverpool to sell Coutinho for 200 million euros (then USD $237 million) because it would have been an “irresponsible” financial risk for the club. Five months on, Barcelona has managed to negotiate a cheaper deal.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said the club tried to keep its prized player, but that Coutinho had wanted to leave for the Catalan club since July.
“He is 100 percent certain his future – and that of his family – belongs at Barcelona,” Klopp said.
Coutinho will arrive bearing high expectations to meet the lofty standards of Barcelona’s long line of skilled midfielders.
Barcelona has been searching for a player with the vision and passing talent of Xavi Hernandez since the Spain great left the club after 17 seasons to play in Qatar 2 1/2 years ago.
Coutinho will rejuvenate a midfield core led by the 33-year-old Andres Iniesta and which includes Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Paulinho, who are all 29.
On announcing his signing, Barcelona hailed Coutinho as “a young player with potential still to be tapped.”
Coutinho won’t be able to play for Barcelona in the Champions League since he has already featured in the competition with Liverpool in the group stage. But he will be available for Barcelona’s bid to reclaim the Spanish league title from Real Madrid and defend its Copa del Rey crown.
Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Coutinho made the leap from Brazilian club Vasco de Gama to Inter Milan in 2010. He got a taste of the Spanish league in a six-month loan deal at Espanyol in 2012 before he then made the move to Liverpool in January 2013, where he became one of the Premier League’s most dynamic playmakers.
He scored 41 goals in 152 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, including seven in 14 matches this season.
Signed by Inter Milan at age 16 from Vasco da Gama, Coutinho made his debut for the Italian side two years later with some pundits comparing him to Neymar.
Instead of defending its Champions League title with a new star, Inter was frustrated, with the Brazilian scoring only once the whole season.
Coutinho decided to take advice from his friend, Neymar, and move to Spain instead of returning to Brazil. At Espanyol, he scored five goals in 16 games in his first season and caught the attention of Liverpool.
Coutinho’s transfer is technically the second most expensive of all time as Mbappe has only moved on loan from Monaco to PSG. But there is an option to buy the forward on a permanent deal for 180 million euros at the end of the season in a deal structured to ease the financial burden on the French club this year.
Barcelona plays Levante in La Liga on Sunday, and then hosts Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey on Thursday. The club has not said when it expects Coutinho to get his first minutes playing alongside Lionel Messi.
Story: Joseph Wilson, Steve Douglas