Philippe Coutinho could miss the start of the season – ramping up speculation his Anfield future is shrouded in doubt.
The Liverpool midfielder again missed training today with a back problem that has sidelined him for the past week, amid an increasingly intense campaign from Barcelona to destabilise his position at Anfield.
And now manager Jurgen Klopp is faced with a real problem for the opening fixture of the Premier League season, as the Reds face a tough trip to Watford, as well as the prospect of having to reject yet more Nou Camp propaganda.
The German coach will NOT play anyone who has not trained in the days before a game, and that leaves his little Brazilian with, realistically, just one more session to prove he is ready for the big kick off.
Some sources in Spain – inspired by Barca officials – have been keen to suggest Coutinho is playing up on the training ground, after demanding a move.
The truth is more mundane.
He really does have a back problem, though he has made clear to Klopp that he would be interested in speaking to the Spanish giants IF Liverpool are interested in selling.
The manager though, is adamant he will not even consider an offer for his star player – even if it grew considerably beyond £100m, and promised to make the 24 year old the second most expensive transfer in history.
That has led to a farcical situation though, with Reds officials continually forced to deny claims Barca officials have travelled to Anfield for talks. Those stories have been repeated every day this week so far, and yet there has been no contact between the clubs.
Barca did submit one tentative offer a fortnight ago, but when that was rejected out of hand, they have not returned with a fresh bid, and there certainly has been no agreement, despite some reports in Spain.
Instead Barcelona have concentrated their recent efforts on trying to prise Ousmane Dembele out of Dortmund.
Nou Camp officials did travel to Germany on Tuesday, but were told they would have to pay an eye-watering £135m for the France international.
That has brought the attention back to Coutinho and the simmering campaign of unrest which is designed to force a route out of Anfield.
Liverpool officials though, are surprisingly relaxed at the situation, and suggestions from within the club indicate even if the player submits a transfer request – which at this stage is hugely unlikely – it will not be granted.
It could lead to an uncomfortable weekend though, because if Coutinho does miss the trip to Watford, then he inevitably becomes a doubt for the Champions’ League visit to Hoffenheim on Tuesday, which would increase the speculation to fever pitch.
Barcelona have indicated they are prepared to pay €120m for the Brazil international, though that has not been translated into a bid.
It does though, offer a fraught fortnight for the English clubs and their increasingly fearful fans until the transfer window closes at the end of August, with Barca rarely failing to get their man when they set their sights.
The Spanish club though, are determined to find a replacement for £200m world record departure Neymar, and they have also expressed a strong interest in Juventus forward Paulo Dybala, who is seen as a star name more likely to appease their own disgruntled support.