What will it take to prevent Philippe Coutinho from joining Barcelona?

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Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho on the ball against Burnley. United Kingdom.
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Joseph Kavaloski explains why qualifying for the Champions League is more important than ever.

After the first eight league matches of the season, Liverpool sits fourth with 17 points. Being that this is only Klopp’s first full season in charge, finishing in the top four may not seem to be an imperative for the season to be deemed a success. However, the fate of one of the Reds’ star players may rest on just that: bringing the Champions League back to Anfield.

Over the past few transfer periods, rumours have been swirling around Philippe Coutinho. Major clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, and PSG have all been mentioned as potentially being interested in acquiring the Reds’ little magician.

From Fernando Torres to Luis Suarez, Liverpool has developed the habit of selling their best players in the prime of their careers. At 24 years old, coming off his second straight club player of the year award, Coutinho has emerged as the best player in the side. Selling him in the next year would be in line with recent trends at Anfield, but it would be a devastating blow to Klopp’s progress.

Jurgen Klopp is well on his way to returning Liverpool back to the top of English football, but in order to accomplish that he needs to find a way to keep his best players. The German’s best years at Borussia Dortmund were when he was able to field Mario Gotze, Marco Reus, Robert Lewandowski. Keeping a player as talented as Coutinho is vital if Klopp hopes to repeat his Dortmund success at Liverpool.

Even if Klopp decides to build his side around Roberto Firmino (which appears to be the case) Coutinho will still continue to be one of the team’s most important players. Losing the little Brazilian would leave a massive hole on the left side of the Reds’ front line and it would be very difficult to fill.

The only way to keep Coutinho at Anfield is to show the rest of England and Europe that the Reds are once again among the continent’s elite clubs. The best way to do that is by securing a spot in the 2017/18 Champions League.

Without European football to stretch the squad through injuries, the Reds can put all of their focus into the Premier League. In comparison to other top four contenders such as Manchester City, Spurs, Arsenal, and others that have to play two games per week for almost the entire season, the Reds have a clear fitness advantage with only one match per seven days.

Thankfully, Liverpool has started on the right foot, especially after a gruelling fixture list to begin the season. However, whether it be Neymar wanting Coutinho at Barcelona or Ronaldo de Lima saying the same for Real Madrid, the better the Reds play, the more eyes there will be on Coutinho. As a result, the rumours will most likely not stop whether the Reds go up or down, but Coutinho’s perception of Liverpool as a club can still be impacted.

In the past, Coutinho has mentioned that he wants to win trophies above all else. Finishing in the top four is not a trophy (unless you are Arsene Wenger) but it would do a lot towards convincing the Brazilian that Liverpool is where he wants to be long term.

Liverpool fans should perhaps look no further than Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy who spurned the chance to join Arsenal and other top clubs this summer because Leicester City had already secured entry into Europe’s top competition. If the Reds can finish among the top four spots in the table while also making another exciting cup run, it will be much easier to keep Coutinho’s eyes focused on Merseyside rather than Spain.

As a Brazilian, it is easy for Coutinho to be swayed by national icons such as Ronaldo and Neymar, but if Klopp can prove that the Reds are in fact among Europe’s elite, those rumours may not be so enticing after all. Klopp is creating a special atmosphere at the club and the combination of that and winning would be extremely difficult for Coutinho to pass up.

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