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We got Coutinho on the cheap, insists Barcelona chief

Mestre insists that £142m fee was a 'substantial reduction' in price they were prepared to pay Pool

By Carl Markham

Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre claims they signed Philippe Coutinho at a reduced cost despite his £142million transfer fee being the second most expensive in history.

The Catalans had three bids rejected for the Brazil international in August but, at his official presentation to the media in the Nou Camp yesterday, the 25-year-old thanked Liverpool for "keeping their word".

Coutinho, who is reported to have paid £9m - rising to £11.5m - out of his own pocket to facilitate the transfer, has cost Barcelona an initial £105m up front with a further £37m in achievable add-ons.

The fee is second only to the £200.6m Paris St Germain paid Barcelona for Neymar back in the summer, although the £142m will be eclipsed when Kylian Mbappe's loan spell at PSG from Monaco is made permanent at the end of the season.

Nevertheless, Mestre insists the Coutinho fee is much less than they could have paid, although Liverpool always denied claims in the Spanish press they had quoted €200m (£176m) to Barca for a summer transfer.

"The interest of the club has always been to take Coutinho to Barcelona," Mestre said.

"The difference is that there has been a substantial reduction in the cost of this transfer.

"There has been a very important reduction, even though we cannot publicly give the figures.

"We are not going to discuss the numbers. The important thing is we have the player here.

"If I reveal numbers I will be breaking our agreement with Liverpool."

Mestre also appeared to confirm reports the Brazil international had contributed some of his own money to make the deal happen.

"Philippe, welcome. We know that you have made a personal and economic effort," he added.

"In the last months we have dreamed of this moment, we wish you the best, which is the best for all."

It is fair to say Coutinho has also spent the last five months dreaming of a move to Spain despite Liverpool's owners Fenway Sports Group issuing a statement in August insisting "no offers would be considered".

That stance softened in recent weeks when it became apparent the playmaker was determined to push through a move, and manager Jurgen Klopp decided not to keep an unhappy player despite the club's best efforts to entice him to stay.

"I want to thank everyone who understood what my desires were, especially people at Liverpool who kept their word," said Coutinho, who will not be available for three weeks due to the thigh injury which forced him to miss Liverpool's first two matches of 2018.

"They tried very hard to convince me to stay. I'd like to thank Liverpool, the club, the directors and Liverpool fans for understanding it was my dream to come to Barcelona."

Meanwhile Coutinho's Barcelona shirt number has been revealed - and it's one that carries a lot of significance at the Nou Camp.

The Brazilian has been handed the No.14 shirt, which has been vacated by another former Red, Javier Mascherano, who will complete a move to China imminently.

But it is not Mascherano who made that shirt famous, it was the late Johan Cruyff, who made it his trademark throughout his career and played for Barcelona between 1973 and 1978, switching between No.14 and No.9, scoring 48 goals in 143 games and winning both La Liga and the Copa del Rey in the process.

He also returned to manager the Catalan giants for a further eight years (1988-1996), winning four La Liga crowns, as well as the European Cup, Cup Winners' Cup and the Copa del Rey once again.

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