Liverpool rejected an opening offer of £72 million for Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona on Thursday night with the message that he is not for sale this summer - at any price.
The Spanish giants, who earlier shelved their long-term drive for the Brazil international due to feeling it was ‘impossible’ from a financial and sporting perspective after he signed a new five-year deal without a release clause in January, have now been pushed into making their move following Paris Saint-Germain’s world-record pursuit of Neymar.
The French club are willing to pay €222m (£199m) for the forward - the exit fee in his contract - having considered Coutinho themselves in their ambitious recruitment drive.
PSG did not make a formal enquiry for Liverpool’s highest-paid player, with the Reds strongly stating none would be welcomed.
That was evident in the way the Reds rebuffed Barca’s approach, with Jurgen Klopp re-iterating on Tuesday that they “will not lose a player we want to keep this summer.”
Coutinho is aware he is core to the manager’s ambitions, and his happiness at Anfield was confirmed by his preparedness to ink fresh terms at the turn of 2017 with no escape stipulation.
“I signed this new contract to stay here for a few more years because it’s a great honour for me,” he said at the time.
“It gives me great happiness because I was welcomed here with open arms by everyone at the club and the supporters right from my first day.
“I am very thankful to this football club for everything.”
Liverpool’s attitude over Coutinho not being on the market mirrors RB Leipzig’s with Naby Keita, who is Klopp’s priority midfield target.
The Bundesliga side have batted away two offers for the Guinea international with a deal “practically impossible” for the Reds to pull off.