Philippe Coutinho, one of Liverpool's best and most important players, will this weekend sit out the second match of the new Premier League season.

The Brazilian was absent as Liverpool last week opened their domestic campaign with a 3-3 draw against Watford, missing also on Wednesday when the Reds travelled to Hoffenheim and put one foot in the Champions League groups stages with a 2-1 win in their two-leg qualifier.

The official explanation for Coutinho's inactivity is a back injury. It's purely a coincidence, the club tells us, that the midfielder earlier in the month handed in a transfer request amid fevered interest from Spanish giants Barcelona.

There's no doubting the situation is awkward for Liverpool and their fans - manager Jurgen Klopp was rather understated when he said it was "not cool" being unable to call on such a key player - but for the rest of us?


It's yet another delightful quirk of the Premier League and a reminder of the off-field entertainment thoroughly lacking in New Zealand sport.

Transfer sagas dragging throughout the long off-season can certainly be one of the more tiresome aspects of football. It's summer, there are no games and little else to talk about. But once the campaign kicks off, so too does the real fascination.

Now, suddenly, there is a pressing deadline: the end of the transfer window at the end of the month. Now, we see some players turn out for one team one week and wear a different kit the next, while others like Coutinho suffer mysterious - and almost always temporary - ailments while waiting for proposed moves to arise.

Now the fun really begins.

Imagine if, two weeks into the Super Rugby season, a player essentially went on strike while attempting to engineer a shift from a struggling franchise (let's face it, the Blues) to one with a better chance of success.

Imagine if that player had his wishes grudgingly granted before eventually returning with his new side, forced now to face up to his former teammates and the hostile reception that would inevitably await from the once-adoring public.

Such a scenario would add a much-needed element of drama to what can occasionally be staid Kiwi codes, offering intrigue outside the lines and perhaps even a little spite where none previously existed.

And don't just take football's word for it; look at the example of the massive entertainment industry that is American sport. Mid-season trade deadlines are an annual feature in baseball and basketball, with the hours leading up to D-Day as exciting as any actual game.

The rumours and negotiations and eventual transactions are more interesting to discuss than a favourite team's tactics, with fans debating whether the loss of a particular player will be sorely felt or whether the potential return will account for any disappointment.

Liverpool may indeed farewell Coutinho before the window slams shut but if so, they can always experience the consolation of a last-minute splurge to spend some of the profits. Or they could frustrate both player and pursuer, leaving Barcelona to frantically look elsewhere as they seek to splash the cash they made from Neymar's record sale to Paris Saint-Germain.

All will be revealed in the next fortnight, while the Premier League continues apace on the pitch. It might not be cool for the likes of Klopp, but it's enjoyable for the rest of us.