Marseille midfielder Maxime Lopez was offered the chance to become Philippe Coutinho's long-term replacement at Liverpool.

Lopez, 19, is enjoying a sparkling breakout campaign for OM this term, having been a first-team regular since October. The midfielder recently signed a new contract at the Stade Velodrome to ward off reported interest from Barcelona – but the Catalan giants are not the only club to have held interest in the young Frenchman.

The Reds were so keen to sign Lopez they dispatched club legend Steven Gerrard to convince the player of a move to Anfield, along with the promise he would eventually take Coutinho's role in the first team.

Lopez told l'Equipe: "They told me: 'In five years you will have Coutinho's position.' They sang my praises, I even met Steven Gerrard in the stadium after the match.

"I wanted to go there, but also to stay at OM. To leave like that, at the age even if my family would have gone too, it was very hard. I had noted that they had 30-odd young professional players, not even counting the first team. You really have to be mentally ready."

Lopez's revelations would appear to highlight Liverpool's genuine fears over Coutinho's long-term future on Merseyside. The 24-year-old signed a new-long term deal with the club in January but lingering interest from Barcelona means nothing can be taken for granted.

Barcelona stars past and present have spoken enthusiastically over the prospect of the Brazil international taking the same route taken by Luis Suarez and swapping Anfield for the Nou Camp.

Rivaldo, former Barcelona and Seleção star, tipped his compatriot to make the move at the start of the year, believing Coutinho's friendship with Neymar could play a pivotal role.

Barcelona's charm offensive continued with defender Gerard Pique addressing talk of a move and insisting he would be welcomed to the club with "open arms".