Soccer

Barcelona acknowledges interest in Coutinho and Dembele

FILE - In this April 29 2017 file photo, Dortmund's Ousmane Dembele attends the Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Cologne in Dortmund. Borussia Dortmund says Sunday Aug. 13, 2017 France forward Ousmane Dembele remains suspended from team training "until further notice" as he agitates for a move to Barcelona. Dembele has reportedly refused all contact with the club since Barcelona made a bid reported to be worth 105 million euros ($124 million) including add-ons. (Bernd Thissen/dpa via AP,file)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona is still after Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund forward Ousmane Dembele.

Coutinho put in a transfer request last week, but Liverpool has said that he is not for sale after rejecting two offers for the Brazil international from Barcelona.

Dembele has been fined and suspended from team training by Dortmund, and is reportedly refused all contact with the club since Barcelona made a bid reported to be worth 105 million euros ($124 million), including add-ons.

"I recognize that they are two players that we really want to come, but their clubs are the ones who have to decide if we can make these signings," Barcelona sporting director Robert Fernandez said Thursday.

Barcelona is trying to reinvest the 222 million euros ($262 million) it received from Paris Saint-Germain when the French club signed Brazil striker Neymar.

Liverpool's American owners are not wavering in their stance on Coutinho, who has become an integral player for the Premier League team.

"Nothing new," Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said Thursday. "Nobody told me anything different."

Coutinho will not be in the squad for Liverpool's league match against Crystal Palace on Saturday, with the club saying he has a back injury.

So far, Barcelona has been limited to convincing Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande to part with Brazil midfielder Paulinho for 40 million euros ($47 million).

The 29-year-old Paulinho signed a four-year contract on Thursday, three days before Barcelona opens the Spanish league season against Real Betis.

Paulinho was considered a disappointment when he played for English club Tottenham for two seasons before moving to Guangzhou in 2015. He said at his presentation at Camp Nou that he had recovered his confidence in China.

"My first season in Tottenham was very good. In the second I couldn't play consistently," Paulinho said. "Perhaps it wasn't my best season. Things didn't go as I would have liked. But that is the past. I accepted the challenge of playing in China and I won back both my desire and confidence there."

Paulinho will be tasked with strengthening a Barcelona midfield that took a step back last season, a decline that stopped it from defending its Spanish league title.

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Updated August 17, 2017

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