Barcelona are hopeful of pushing through deals to sign both Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho in the coming days as efforts to fill the gap left by the departed Neymar intensify.
The Spanish club’s general manager Pep Segura, speaking early on Thursday morning after the Spanish Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid, indicated that the transfers were “close” to being completed.
Sporting director Robert Fernandez was less emphatic when asked about the deals later, although he was optimistic that both will soon be Barcelona players.
“Dembele and Coutinho are two important players that we like a lot and have done for a long time,” said Fernandez at the unveiling of Brazil midfielder Paulinho, a 40 million-euro ($47 million, £36.4 million) signing from Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande.
“They have the conditions, the age and could adapt to our football. They would be good to have here. That’s the reality.”
Under pressure to spend big after pocketing a world record 222 million euros from Paris Saint-Germain for Neymar, Barcelona have already had a £90 million bid for 25-year-old Brazilian attacking midfielder Coutinho rejected by Liverpool.
Spanish media have also reported that Barcelona are prepared to pay an initial 80 million euros, plus 40 million in bonuses, to Borussia Dortmund for 20-year-old French winger Dembele.
Fernandez added: “With respect to Liverpool and Dortmund, when there are negotiations you need time, you need to work things into a favourable situation for players and ourselves.
“We still have days ahead of us, would like to move things faster, but (I) do admit they’re two players we would like here. But it’s the clubs who will have the final say on if we finally achieve those two transfers.”
Liverpool and Dortmund have both been adamant that their respective players are not for sale, with the Premier League club’s manager Jurgen Klopp insisting that no discussions are ongoing with Barcelona.
“No news from me because no-one told me anything different since we spoke last time about this,” said Klopp on Thursday.
– Suarez sidelined –
Coutinho, currently sidelined with a back injury, last week handed in a transfer request that was turned down by Liverpool’s American owners.
There have been suggestions Coutinho could agitate for a move by effectively going on strike, but while he is still injured that is impossible.
Klopp conceded it is a tricky situation for all parties, but was keen not to be seen criticising the Brazilian’s attitude.
“To be honest I have nothing to say about his attitude because since he has had a back problem he has obviously not been in training,” he said.
In contrast to Coutinho, Dembele has been suspended indefinitely by Dortmund after skipping training in a personal protest to pressure the German club to sell him.
He will not play in his current side’s opening Bundesliga game against Wolfsburg this weekend but Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke on Thursday rubbished the claims made by Segura.
“Barcelona have not managed to fulfil their wish to complete Dembele’s transfer — until now, they aren’t one millimetre closer,” Watzke told German magazine Kicker.
Dembele, 20, was signed from Rennes just last year and has a contract until 2021.
Barcelona are eager to complete the signings with their opening game of the season in La Liga coming at home to Betis on Sunday.
The 2-0 defeat to Madrid on Wednesday saw them lose the Spanish Super Cup 5-1 on aggregate and also saw them lose Luis Suarez to injury.
The Uruguayan striker suffered a knee injury in the game that means he will be out for around a month, ruling him out of Barca’s first three league games and their first Champions League group match.