Barcelona head coach Quique Setién has admitted that he is still planning for next season with Philippe Coutinho in his squad, despite the latter being linked with a move away.
Coutinho is set to return to Camp Nou this summer once his loan spell with Bayern Munich comes to an end, with the German side unlikely to exercise their option to sign him permanently for €120m.
He has been heavily linked with a move to Chelsea, but Setién told RAC1 (via AS) that Coutinho does still have a future at the club and he is preparing for next season with the Brazilian as part of his squad.
“I think that Coutinho is a great player, I like him a lot,” Setién confessed. “He is a Barça player. You have to pay the release clause or pay a fee to Barça [for him], but he wants to return here.
“I am counting on him being here at the beginning of next season. I have to speak to him to ask. If it’s necessary, I will speak to him.”
Sport have been pushing the Coutinho-to-Chelsea story hard over the last few weeks. They have said that Chelsea have reached out to Barcelona over a potential loan deal, but talks have stalled over Barcelona’s insistance on an obligation to buy.
Chelsea are understandably hesitant to commit to spending somewhere close to €65m on a player who has not been at the peak of his powers for a few years, and they are thought to be more comfortable agreeing to an option to buy instead – even if that option is more expensive.
However, with talks at a stand-still, Coutinho may be forced to remain at Camp Nou, where he could be a cost-effective solution to their problems in attack.
Barcelona are plotting huge deals for both Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar and Inter’s Lautaro Martínez, but whether they could actually afford both in a post-coronavirus world is uncertain, so bringing Coutinho back into the squad may not be the worst idea.
He has managed a respectable nine goals and eight assists in all competitions with Bayern this season, suggesting he may still have something to offer Barcelona.
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