Philippe Coutinho targeted by two Premier League clubs with final decision expected on Friday

Barcelona forward Philippe Coutinho is being targeted by two Premier League clubs, with a decision expected to be made on Friday afternoon.

Coutinho, who was signed by Barcelona from Liverpool for a club-record £146m in January 2018, wants to return to the Premier League and sign for an ambitious club where he can play regularly.

There were up to six English clubs in the race to sign Coutinho earlier this week, but there are now only two serious contenders fighting it out for the Brazil international.

Aston Villa were among those registered with an interest in the midfielder after making a tentative enquiry to Barcelona, with manager Steven Gerrard – a former team-mate of Coutinho at Liverpool – a big admirer.

Gerrard refused to be drawn on the speculation at a Thursday news conference, but heaped praise on Coutinho, who he still regards as a friend.

“Sixty-three caps for Brazil, a serial winner, was incredible at Liverpool, so I can understand why he’s linked to a lot of football clubs,” said Gerrard, ahead of Monday’s FA Cup third-round tie at Manchester United.

“I can understand why a lot of supporters up and down the country are speaking about him. I don’t think you get a nickname as a magician if you’re not a special footballer, so he’s someone I have an incredible amount of respect for.

“But I don’t want to add to any speculation, because he belongs to Barcelona.”

More to follow…

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