Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho is understood to be close to completing a British record move worth about £142m to Barcelona after missing Liverpool’s mid-season break in Dubai.
The 25-year-old Brazilian has a minor thigh injury and missed the club’s past two games, including Friday’s FA Cup third-round win against Everton.
Liverpool rejected three offers from the Spanish side, as well as a transfer request from Coutinho, last summer.
The last of those offers was for £118m.
Coutinho is one of several Liverpool players to remain behind on Merseyside as manager Jurgen Klopp uses a free week to freshen up his players for next Sunday’s meeting with runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City at Anfield.
Liverpool are hugely reluctant to lose Coutinho in the January transfer window as they pursue a place in the top four and have a Champions League last-16 tie against Porto coming up.
Coutinho could not play for Barcelona in the Champions League if he joins this month having already played a key role in the Reds’ qualification for the knockout phase, but his continued desire to move and the Catalan club’s determination to land the playmaker makes a January switch increasingly likely.
The player has craved a move to the Nou Camp since Barcelona first made concrete efforts to sign him last summer.
Barcelona are now understood to be ready to offer in excess of £140m – but Liverpool would prefer Coutinho to stay and have no requirement for the money, meaning they would drive a hard bargain and any bid high on incentives could be dismissed.
However, the Anfield club have not repeated their hardline “definitive stance” of last summer when they insisted Coutinho would not be sold and instantly rejected his request to leave.
Sources in Spain claim discreet negotiations have taken place in recent days and there is a growing belief Liverpool are now fighting a losing battle to keep Coutinho.