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Coutinho move could spark spending spree

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Philippe Coutinho forced through a move to Barcelona on Sunday. AFP

PARIS (AFP) – Philippe Coutinho’s $192 million deal to join Barcelona is likely to unleash a series of big-money transfers, not least as Liverpool seek to re-invest the proceeds.

It took the third largest amount ever paid for a footballer to prise Coutinho away from Liverpool and the rumour mill has already linked the club with Leicester’s Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez as a possible replacement for the Brazilian playmaker.

Neither club has officially confirmed or denied the deal, despite reports from France saying Mahrez would have a medical soon at Liverpool.

The club’s number one target, according to many reports, is the French international forward Thomas Lemar, part of the impressive Monaco team that reached the Champions League semi-finals last year but which has since been dismantled.

Arsenal had a $125 million for 22-year-old Lemar rejected in the summer transfer window and the player is reportedly keen to work with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

Monaco have already crashed out of the Champions League this season, so Lemar could be open to a move, although coach Leonardo Jardim is reluctant to see one of his remaining star names leave.

“Monaco don’t usually make big sales in the winter,” Jardim said last week.

Other reports have linked Liverpool with Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, an increasingly divisive figure at the Emirates. His contract expires in the summer, meaning Arsenal either cash in on the Chilean now or risk seeing him walk away for nothing.

Before the January transfer window even opened, Liverpool moved to address their defensive frailties by bringing in Dutch centre-back Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton for $100 million, one of the most expensive transfers in history.

Arsenal, who were dumped out of the FA Cup by Championship side Nottingham Forest on Sunday, face a similar dilemma with Mesut Ozil, who is also out of contract in the summer.

Meanwhile, Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino has admitted he has been in talks about bringing in Theo Walcott.

The enormous TV receipts enjoyed by Premier League clubs forces many into the transfer market to compete with the biggest earners in their own division.

So Everton, still far from safe from relegation after a dreadful start to the season, have signed a much-needed centre-forward in Cenk Tosun in a deal worth a reported $35 million.

Leicester City will fight to keep Mahrez, who was one of the driving forces when the unfashionable club won the Premier League title in 2016.

But if Mahrez is tempted away – and he reportedly has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave if a substantial bid comes along in this window – then Leicester’s French boss Claude Puel could turn to Hatem Ben Arfa, who has failed to break into Paris Saint-Germain’s star-studded team.

PSG could be prepared to let Ben Arfa leave as the Qatari-backed club need to reduce their wage bill to comply with financial fair play rules after their spending reached stratospheric levels last summer with the world-record arrival of Neymar for $262 million, followed by the acquisition of French teenager Kylian Mbappe.

Brazilian midfielder Lucas Moura also looks set to be offloaded, with fellow Ligue 1 side Nantes vying for his signature.

Javier Pastore could be allowed to leave, with Inter Milan leading the race for his services.

Several Premier League clubs are also said to be tracking two young talents in Bundesliga.

Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey is said to be a target for Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, and German midfielder Leon Goretzka could reportedly join Liverpool from Schalke 04 on a free transfer next summer.

Sandro Wagner and Mario Gomez, will have new teammates when Bundesliga action resumes next weekend. Wagner is the new backup for Robert Lewandowski at league leaders Bayern Munich while veteran Gomez has joined Stuttgart.

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