Arsenal were “really close” to signing Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona in August according to Fabrizio Romano. The Gunners were linked with the Brazilian playmaker in the summer transfer window before making a move for Lyon’s Houssem Aouar.
Arsenal ultimately made seven additions in the summer, spending over £70million on Thomas Partey, Gabriel Magalhes, Pablo Mari and Runar Alex Runarsson.
Mikel Arteta also made Cedric Soares’ loan move permanent, re-signed Dani Ceballos on another season-long loan and brought Willian in on a free.
Partey was the headline acquisition with Arsenal spending £45m to bring the Ghanaian in from Atletico Madrid on deadline day.
But before Arteta brought the 27-year-old holding midfielder to the Emirates, the north London club had been keen to land Lyon’s Aouar.
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The Spanish coach identified the France international as the ideal option to add extra attack-minded quality to the Arsenal midfield.
The Londoners even had a bid of around £35million rejected for the 22-year-old with Lyon demanding closer to £55m to sell the player.
However, Romano claims that before launching a pursuit for the Frenchman – which ultimately failed with Arsenal turning to Partey instead – Barca midfielder Coutinho was very much on their radar.
The former Liverpool playmaker’s time at the Nou Camp looked almost certain to come to an end, although he has now become an important member of new manager Ronald Koeman’s side.
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But transfer expert Romano claims before his surprise u-turn in Barcelona, Coutinho was close to returning to the Premier League to link up with Arteta and co.
Even late in the window the 28-year-old was tipped to join Arsenal on a season-long loan deal.
Assessing Barca’s Champions League prospects, Romano told the Liverpool Echo: “I think it is really difficult to see Barcelona fighting for the Champions League because the night against Bayern Munich was something terrible.
“After this kind of defeat, we were expecting a revolution, not just in the manager but also in the players. We expected a new era for Barcelona but it is not like this because they just signed Sergino Dest.
“It was not a real revolution. They lost Arturo Vidal, Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic but they have no new stars in this moment.
“This season for Barcelona is like: ‘let’s start the change, let’s sell players and prepare the revolution for next year with a new president and new team’. And we have to see without or without Lionel Messi.
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“Before, Barca were considering to sell Philippe Coutinho and he was on the list to sell, so his agents were working to offer him to Tottenham, to Arsenal.
“Arsenal were really close and at the start of August, they were ready. But once Koeman arrived, he understood it was difficult to sign other players, for example Memphis Depay.”
Barca’s Ousmane Dembele was also tipped to leave the Catalan giants with Manchester United heavily linked in the final days before October 5.
But Romano also claims the Frenchman was subject of an approach from Liverpool, which Dembele wasn’t keen on.
“Ousmane Dembele [was not close to signing for Liverpool] because [Liverpool made] a simple loan with no buy option,” he continued.
Barcelona were considering the move to let him play but in September they changed their position because they needed money to sign Depay.
“Always, the player said no to Liverpool and Juventus – the player said it was not a matter of money; he wanted to stay [at Barcelona].”
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