Former Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has denied reports that he encouraged compatriot Philippe Coutinho to leave Merseyside in favour of Barcelona.
The Brazilian joined La Liga leaders Barca over the weekend in one of the most expensive deals of all time - with the Reds expected to receive an initial £105m upfront, with the rest being paid in add-ons. The transfer - a British record - will eventually equate to a total of £142m.
Despite the substantial fee involved, the transfer, or the manner of it, left a bitter taste for many Liverpool fans.
In the aftermath of Coutinho's move, Lucas Leiva, who joined Lazio from Liverpool in the summer having made 345 appearances for the club, was forced to take to social media to refute claims that he had encouraged the Brazilian midfielder to leave Merseyside.
Before the move was completed, Leiva was quoted as telling his former teammate, by the Daily Mail: "Missing the Champions League means you will be fresh for the World Cup, my friend. It's not ideal, but you have to look at things positively."
Having already played for Liverpool in the competition, Coutinho will be ineligible to play for his new club in the Champions League knockout rounds. Some Liverpool fans interpreted Leiva's comments as words of encouragement, while others saw them as less cynical.
Lucas Leiva telling Coutinho that missing Champions League football would keep him fresh for the World Cup, is purely him consoling a friend, a fellow Brazilian friend, who’d undoubtedly decided his future.— Ben Webb (@BenWebbLFC) January 7, 2018
As if he’s going to change his mind.
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Lucas then went on to inform his followers that he is Coutinho's friend and that he doesn't make his decisions for him.
Jurgen Klopp will now look to life without Coutinho. The Reds have already spent a record fee of £75m on Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk, and may well be looking to spend even more on Coutinho's replacement.