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Liverpool make their move for Lemar with Coutinho exit now a 'when' not an 'if'

Reds have admitted defeat over keeping star with heart set on Barcelona and want Monaco midfielder as a replacement

Liverpool have identified £90million-rated Thomas Lemar as the man they want to replace Philippe Coutinho.

Anfield officials have made contact with his club, French champions Monaco, to re-start negotiations for a player they tried to get last summer.

France international midfielder Lemar is also wanted by Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, but has indicated he is leaning towards the lure of Kop boss Jurgen Klopp and his emerging young team.

The Gunners tried to get the 22-year-old on deadline day in August, and were expected to move again for him, but now fear the player would prefer a switch to Anfield.

Three other Big Six sides are eyeing Lemar, but it's understood Liverpool are his first choice (Image: AFP)

Boss Jurgen Klopp doesn't want to sell Coutinho, but it now looks inevitable (Image: Liverpool FC via Getty)

Lemar is widely considered to be one of the best young attacking talents in Europe and getting him would soften the blow of losing Coutinho, with the question now not if the Brazilian will leave Anfield, but when, and for how much.

Liverpool have admitted defeat in their attempts to persuade him to ignore the overtures of Barcelona, after he made clear he will not agree a new, improved contract because he has set his heart on a move to the Nou Camp.

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There is now an understanding within the Spanish club that they could get their man IF they conduct negotiations seriously and sensitively.

That means no repeat of last summer’s crass attempts to prise the player out of Anfield at a knock-down price and also a serious, achievable fee which does not include the unlikely performance-related add-ons proposed in August.

Coutinho has scored 12 goals this season after having a summer transfer request refused... (Image: Liverpool FC/Getty Images)

...but his 89th minute substitution on Saturday may well have ended his Kop career (Image: AFP)
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Liverpool have not set a price for Coutinho, and there have yet to be any firm offers from the Nou Camp. But it is understood any fee would have to exceed a £120m base price, with clauses that could bring extra cash.

They are now braced for a firm offer, which could arrive as early as this weekend.

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Indications from the Catalan capital suggest it could reach around a £100m base price, with £40m in potential add-ons.

As an opening gambit, that would be close enough to allow talks to proceed — and could even mean Coutinho has already played his last game for Liverpool, after being ruled out of the FA Cup derby showdown with neighbours Everton on Friday following a scan on a thigh injury.

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