Manchester United have been dealt a major blow in their pursuit of Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho, after the player’s agent revealed that his client would find it difficult to play for a Premier League rival of former club Liverpool.

The Brazilian, who enjoyed an excellent Copa America with his national side as they lifted their ninth title this summer, left Anfield for the Catalan giants in January 2018.

However, the enormous £142 million deal has not worked out, with Coutinho frequently omitted from the line-up due to poor form.

Meanwhile, the arrival of Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid is likely to push him further towards the margins of the squad.

Kia Joorabchian has now gone on record as saying that Barca have been giving the player mixed messages over his future.

“We had a meeting last week with the president [Josep] Bartomeu and other directors, and they told us he was absolutely not for sale, that they have never spoken about the boy leaving, that they had never offered him to any club,” he said in an interview with Sky Sports.

“Although there is a guy that works for them called Andre Cury, who apparently has been touting him about – but the president has told us he is categorically not for sale.

“I think Liverpool lies very, very deeply in his heart,” he continued.

“He was a big fan of them throughout the campaign [last season].

“He was wishing for them to win the title and he has a very strong affinity there so I think it will be very difficult for him to go to a direct competitor of Liverpool from a personal standpoint.”

It is unclear whether Joorabchian was trying to angle for Coutinho to make a return to Liverpool, but the inference was that any move to United was a non-starter.

While many thought that his departure would hinder the Reds’ progress, the funds allowed the Merseysiders to bring in centre-back Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson, two players who have been instrumental in the team’s improvement.

Since Coutinho left, Liverpool have reached two Champions League finals, winning one, and finished second in the Premier League with an incredible 97 points.

The 27-year-old was given a poor reception on his return to Anfield with Barca last term and it is unclear as to whether the fans would even want him back.

United, meanwhile, are trying to rebuild from outside of Europe’s premier club competition and a creative midfielder is on their list of targets.

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