Reports: Barcelona eye Atletico Madrid star as ideal replacement for Andres Iniesta
Iniesta is set to leave Barcelona at the end of the 2017/18 season
What’s the story?
Barcelona are lining up a move for Atletico Madrid star, Saúl Ñíguez according to reports in Spain. The midfielder has been identified as the 'ideal replacement' for Andres Iniesta by the Catalan side.
Blaugrana have the first option on Ñíguez because of David Villa's move to Atletico in 2013. Saul is one of the two players in the Atletico squad that Barcelona have an option on - the other is full-back Javi Manquillo.
In case you didn’t know...
Andrés Iniesta has decided to leave Barcelona when his contract expires at the end of the 2017/18 season according to reports in Spain. The Spaniard is reportedly eyeing a move to the middle-east or the United States of America as he does not wish to retire.
The Spaniard wants the club to sign his replacement this summer so that the transition is smooth according to reports. Marco Verratti and Philippe Coutinho were the primary targets, but now the club has decided to make a move for the Atletico star.
The heart of the matter
Barcelona are on the hunt for an Iniesta replacement and have set sights on Ñíguez. The Atletico Madrid star has been in impressive form ever since he was promoted to the first time.
Saul has a contract until 2020, but the Rojiblancos are facing a tough task of keeping him at the club. Apart from Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are said to be keen on signing him.
Barcelona hold the advantage over all the other club as they have the first refusal option on him. This means that the Catalan side can just match the highest bid made by a club and sign him up.
Other reports suggest that a clause in Ñíguez's contract enables Barcelona to sign him up for €60 million regardless of any interest from other clubs. With Verratti and Coutinho set to cost over €70 million, Blaugrana will opt to sign the midfielder from Atletico.
Barcelona will try and negotiate a fee with Atletico in the coming weeks to reduce the asking price. The Catalan side are hoping to sign him for less than €50 million so that they can spend big on other players.
The club's primary target is to sign a centre-back. Pique, Mascherano and Mathieu are in their 30's, and a long-term partner for Umtiti is what that are looking for when the transfer window opens.
Ñíguez has shown us what he can do by performing regularly at Atletico Madrid. The highlight of his career is surely that solo golazo against Bayern Munich. Can he replicate what Iniesta has done at Barcelona? Surely not. But then, who can possibly replicate that? No one.