The loss of Phillippe Coutinho would not be as damaging to Liverpool as was the departure of Luis Saurez in 2014.
That’s the view of club legend Phil Thompson who also says that he would love to see Diego Costa come to Anfield.
Following the record-breaking transfer of Neymar from Barcelona to PSG, speculation has intensified that Coutinho will follow in the footsteps of Suarez by leaving Liverpool to join Barcelona.
Thompson, the former Liverpool skipper who is now a Sky Sports pundit, says he hopes a way can be found to keep the Brazilian at Anfield but admits that he is “realistic” about the lure of La Liga, especially for South American players.
Yet, he insists the loss of the player would not be as destabilising for Jurgen Klopp’s plans as many think.
“It would be a blow,” says Thomposon, “but looking at the players you have there now, the likes of Salah, Mane, Firmino, Lallana, you’ve got four there with a bit of a wow factor and he fits in with all of that. Is he miles above them? No. Is he just above them? Yes.
“Although it would be a big loss, it wouldn’t be as damaging as the likes of Suarez was. When he left, it left a massive gap.”
Thompson also wonders about precisely how Coutinho might fit in at the Nou Camp.
”He’s not Neymar,” he says. “I don’t mean he’s not as a footballer but he doesn’t play in his position. Neymar plays out left — that’s not Coutinho’s position. Is he coming to take over from Iniesta? Possibly, but he might not get as many games as he would wish in that midfield role. It’s a World Cup year and if he’s not playing regularly that might impact on him and he’s becoming a central figure for Brazil.”
Meanwhile, as Liverpool prepare for today’s friendly against Athletic Bilbao at the Aviva (5.15pm), Thompson has been musing on an imaginative solution to what he regards as Klopp’s need for “an out-and-out striker, a No 9”.
Diego Costa looks set for a return to Atletico Madrid where, because of a transfer ban, the wantaway Chelsea striker would be unable to play until January, but even though AC Milan have now reportedly entered the picture, Thompson has another scenario in mind.
“Dare I say it: Diego Costa signs for Atletico Madrid and then gets loaned out to Liverpool?” he smiles. “It would be quite a dream, wouldn’t it? I’d take him for six months.
“Going back three or four years when Liverpool were in for Costa, I think we offered 20 million. It was 25 million and the deal never got done. I was amazed. If we’d have had Suarez and Diego Costa, God, they’d have frightened everybody.
“You love these players. Every other supporter moans at them but you know as a Chelsea fan how much Costa will fight for you, do the battling for you. Good skills too. Good technique. Is Morata going to be (as effective) when you get into battles in the Premier League? It didn’t matter whether you were playing against Hull City or Manchester United, you knew what you’d get off Costa.”
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