LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 24, 2016: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia in action against Hull City during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Spanish report claims Barcelona have begun ‘Operation Coutinho’ ahead of summer

Despite Philippe Coutinho signing a new long-term contract with Liverpool in January, reports in Spain suggest he could be on his way to Barcelona.

Coutinho signed a new five-year deal at the start of the year, committing his future to the Reds as they look to build for success under Jurgen Klopp.

But this has not quelled speculation over the Brazilian’s future, with Barcelona forward Neymar proclaiming in the week that Coutinho would “totally fit” at the Nou Camp.

The 24-year-old has been away with the Brazil squad in South America this week, and linked up with Neymar and Luis Suarez after Thursday night’s 4-1 win away to Uruguay.

Now, according to Spanish publication Sport, Barcelona are ready to launch “Operation Coutinho,” making the playmaker one of their priority targets for the summer.

They claim that Coutinho could leave Liverpool at the end of the season, and that he would be “delighted” to join the La Liga giants.

It is also said that Coutinho’s agent, Giuliano Bertolucci, has held a number of talks with Barcelona, with the No. 10 regularly on the agenda.

And owing to his strong relationships with the likes of Neymar and Suarez, and his affinity with the city from his time on loan with Espanyol, the move could be set to go ahead.

They do suggest, however, that Barcelona would only be able to move forward with a deal to sign Coutinho if they sold “one or two midfielders” first.

This is something that could be set in motion by the departure of his compatriot, Rafinha, with Diario Gol claiming he could be looking to move in search of first-team football.

And interestingly, Liverpool are named as a possible destination for Rafinha, along with Juventus and Arsenal.

Though a swap deal is unlikely, given the complexity of such an agreement, Rafinha leaving to join Liverpool with Coutinho moving in the opposite direction is feasible.

But Klopp clearly holds Coutinho in high regard, and won’t be willing to sanction his departure.

But Coutinho has struggled for form of late, with the midfielder lacking the same quality he showed before picking up an ankle injury in November, and Liverpool need other solutions.

If Barcelona do make a significant bid for the Little Magician in the summer, it will be interesting to see how strong the Reds’ resolve is.

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