LIVERPOOL look set to miss out on Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt – with the Ajax star snubbing an Anfield switch in favour of Barcelona.
Liverpool are said to have offered the Dutch centre-back a contract after his stunning form for the Amsterdam club.
But they appear to have lost out in the race to Barcelona, who already have a deal in place this summer for his Ajax and Holland team-mate Frenkie de Jong.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp could have paired de Ligt alongside countryman Virgil van Dijk on Merseyside.
But he’ll have to look elsewhere if he wants to strengthen the heart of his defence, with reports from Italy suggesting the 19-year-old is packing his bags for Spain.
Juventus and Bayern Munich were other sides said to be keen on landing De Ligt.
And CalcioMercato say Liverpool also put an offer on the table for the player.
However Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo claimed yesterday that despite Barcelona not formally tabling an offer for the defender, his heart is set on a move to the Nou Camp.
The news of De Ligt’s Liverpool snub comes as:
* An unlikely Liverpool star is dubbed ‘the best in Europe’ on Match of the Day
* Mohamed Salah is accused of ‘causing a problem’ at Liverpool
* Alan Shearer lauds a Reds outcast for inspiring the thrashing of Burnley
“Liverpool have lost out to Barcelona in the transfer race for Ajax star Matthijs de Ligt”
It’s claimed that he’ll turn down more money elsewhere to join Barca, where he would play alongside Gerard Pique.
Elsewhere at Barcelona, attacker Philippe Coutinho was booed off by his own fans after failing to shine against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
He’s set to be put back into the firing line by manager Ernesto Valverde though, with Ousmane Dembele set to miss their Champions League tie with Lyon on Wednesday.
Dembele helped Barca to a 3-1 win after coming off the bench with the team struggling to break down La Liga minnows Rayo, with Coutinho failing to provide any spark or combining well with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Fans showed their dissatisfaction with the Brazilian when he was replaced in the 80th minute by Ivan Rakitic, who promptly set up a goal for Suarez and helped secure a win that kept Barcelona seven points clear and bidding for a first treble since 2015.
A goalless draw in the first leg in Lyon means Barca have to win the second leg on Wednesday to ensure progress in the Champions League, but they will likely have to make do without the pace and unpredictability of Dembele, who ended the Rayo game with a hamstring strain.
Defender Gerard Pique gave Coutinho his backing after he faced the wrath of the Nou Camp but also challenged him to raise his game.
“Philippe is having a good season, but obviously his price tag was very big and this means there are bigger expectations about his performances,” Pique said.
“You have to accept the reaction of the supporters because they are our fans, but inside the dressing room the players give him all the support in the world.”