Former Manchester City midfielder Joey Barton believes it is just a matter of time before Liverpool attacker Philippe Coutinho joins Barcelona and has criticised Jurgen Klopp's side for failing to line up replacements for the Brazil international.
Coutinho has missed all three of Liverpool's opening matches with a back problem and has made his intention to leave Anfield for the Camp Nou very clear. The former Inter Milan starlet handed in a transfer request a little over a week ago, but Liverpool are holding firm over their prized asset and rejected a third bid from Barcelona, believed to be worth £118m inclusive of add-ons, a few days ago.
Liverpool wasted no time in rebuffing that bid and have stated in no uncertain terms that they will not sell Coutinho, but Barton, now working as a pundit after being banned from football for placing 1,260 bets on matches between 2006 and 2016, thinks the Brazilian's move to Barcelona is inevitable.
"[Coutinho] wants out, and if you're getting up to what are they now, almost £120m, it just looks like how much rather than if or when," Barton told talkSPORT.
"He's not a Scouser, he's a Brazilian. He's already living a fair distance away from home and he's probably grown up wanting to play for Barcelona. No disrespect to Liverpool, but that's the club Brazilian youngsters grow up wanting to play for nowadays.
"It's not the Liverpool of the 80s, it's Liverpool who haven't won a title for over 20 years, so you can't blame the boy. As I said, it's just a case of how much and at what moment he goes."
Liverpool may well have allowed Coutinho to leave for Barcelona if the Catalan giants made their move to sign him earlier in the transfer window, but with just a few days to go until deadline day the Reds seem set to hold onto the 25-year-old, who signed a new five-year contract on Merseyside earlier this summer.
Barton, a known supporter of Liverpool's city rivals Everton, understands that viable replacements for Coutinho are thin on the ground but firmly believes that Klopp's side should have put a contingency plan in place in order to give them a better chance of coping with the situation they now find themselves in.
"Liverpool should have pre-empted this," he added. "They should have known a big club was going to come sniffing for him and, although he's difficult to replace, they should have had replacements lined up for him."