Barcelona have been heavily linked with a big-money move for Inter Milan forward Lautaro Martínez for over a year. Now, Racing Club president Victor Blanco has admitted that his former player is indeed being followed closely by Barcelona.
Lautaro, an Argentine international, has displayed a great understanding with Barcelona captain Lionel Messi on the international front. The two South Americans combined very well for Argentina, and the Inter Milan man is viewed as the striker to lead the line for La Albiceleste's next generation.
The 22-year-old spent three full seasons at Racing Club between 2015 and 2018 during which his performances garnered attention from top European clubs. Now at Inter, he is reportedly being courted by several top clubs.
Speaking to TyC Sports, Blanco revealed,
"I've spoken to the people around Lautaro, to those who advise him, and they've told me that Barcelona are following him closely."
The 74-year-old continued,
"We [Racing Club] all want him to be happy and play where he really wants to play. I'm sure he will make a decision for his own good."
It was reported early in 2015 that Real Madrid had a deal in place to lure the then-teenager to the Santiago Berbabéu. However, despite there being some truth to this, his father later revealed that he was not ready to leave his native country at the time, and it was right at the beginning of his professional career.
His powerful displays in Argentina were enough to convince Inter Milan to part with €25m for Lautaro. After his 27 goals in 60 appearances for Racing, he embarked on a new challenge and moved to the Italian top-flight.
In his first season, although he did participate in 27 league fixtures, his output was relatively low. This is partly because of him playing second fiddle to former Inter captain Mauro Icardi. Under new head coach Antonio Conte, though, Lautaro has begun to find his element, especially with a new strike partner upfront in Romelu Lukaku.
Lukaku and Lautaro have combined to contribute directly to a staggering 39 goals and nine assists by themselves under Conte. The Italian prefers to play with two out-and-out forwards leading his attack, and Lautaro often plays the role of linking up play in the final third efficiently.
It is also reported that Barcelona view Lautaro as a potential long-term replacement for the ageing Luis Suárez. The Uruguayan legend turned 33 at the end of January and has faced recurring injury concerns, leading him to play through the pain barrier for a long while. Suárez has notched up 14 goals and 11 assists in the 2019/20 season, however, he has also missed over 25 games this season due to calf, ankle and most notably a knee injury.
Given Suárez' waning powers and Barcelona's need for attacking reinforcements, a move for Lautaro is very much on the cards. Inter Milan have made it clear to Barcelona that they will not accept anything less than the amount stated in Lautaro's release clause, which is a figure of €111m.
Should 'El Toro' join Barcelona, Racing Club will be owed a share of the transfer fee as part of his sell-on fee.