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Barcelona steps up hunt for Neymar replacement

Football - 2016 / 2017 Premier League - Liverpool vs. Everton Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool celebrates scoring during the match at Anfield. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Colorsport/Icon Sportswire) ****NO AGENTS---NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****NO AGENTS---NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****
ne Cameron/Colorsport/Icon Sportswire

With a fully loaded treasure chest after the sale of Neymar, Barcelona is looking to replace the Brazilian and find a new player to complete the attacking trio led by Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. According to several media outlets in England, Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho is at the top of Barca’s wishlist.

With the club cashing in a staggering £222 million with Neymar leaving to join Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1, the transfer coffers are filled for the Catalans. Coutinho, 25, seems to be the main target for Barca, but his current club Liverpool have been adamant that the Brazilian forward isn’t for sale.

With Messi being the big kahuna, and Suarez scoring goals in droves, the team needs a player that is good enough to play with the duo but also okay not being the go-to guy in the lineup. Neymar was in the shadow of Messi, and in addition to the huge amount of money he’ll be earning in the French capital, he will also get the chance to be the undisputed superstar on a team.

Coutinho has been a good Premier League player for several years and had his best season to date last year when he finished the season with 13 league goals in 31 appearances. He is excellent on the ball but is also able to get into the right channels when he’s without the ball. With a great first touch and sledgehammer of a right foot, he has the ability to score from distance and be a real threat on set pieces.

In addition to the 13 league goals last season, the Rio de Janeiro native had seven assists. On paper he looks a perfect playmate for Messi and Suarez, but with having signed a new five-year contract in January, Liverpool wants to keep Coutinho, who was one of the team’s more prolific players last season together with Sadio Mane.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed at a recent fan meeting that the club is now looking to bolster the squad after Neymar’s departure.

“We thought there was a chance that Neymar could go and for that reason we raised his buyout clause,” Bartomeu said. “Now we are looking for alternatives, and whatever happened here, it is in the end good for Barca because if he stayed then we have a great player and if he goes then we bring in a lot of money.

“The 222 million euros we will spend sensibly, strictly and wisely. It will be used to improve the club and with this it means that we are in a great position to sign players. This year there will not be a trident but we can now talk about a team. We will bring in players, the first has been Semedo, but there will be more.”

According to reports, Barcelona submitted a £72 million bid to Liverpool for Coutinho 18 days ago, but it was immediately rejected by the English side. With all the Neymar money now available for spending, Barcelona should be able to up their bid to a level where it would be too good an offer for Liverpool to say no. The Reds paid Inter Milan £8.5 million for Coutinho back in January 2013, and since his arrival at Anfield he has scored 42 goals in 182 appearances in all competitions.

In addition to reported interest in Coutinho, Barcelona are also being linked with Monaco’s French international Thomas Lemar. The 21-year-old forward was one of several players that stood out as Monaco won the league title and reached the Champions League semifinals. Lemar ended the season with 14 goals and 14 assists in 55 appearances in all competitions.



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