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Reports: Barcelona identify Lionel Messi replacement after ruling out Neymar return

Ronald Koeman might be preparing for life without Lionel Messi
Ronald Koeman might be preparing for life without Lionel Messi
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Modified 28 Oct 2020, 12:50 IST
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The prodigal son might not be coming back home after all. Barcelona have ruled out Neymar’s return to the Camp Nou in the near future, according to reports. The Catalans have instead turned their attention to Wolverhampton Wanderers star Adama Traore as a possible replacement for Lionel Messi next summer.

The Brazilian was earmarked as the long-term replacement for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner when Barcelona signed the player from Santos ahead of the 2013-14 season. Neymar was an instant success at the Camp Nou and scored 105 goals from 186 appearances over the course of four seasons.

The Messi-Neymar-Luis Suarez combination spread terror in the hearts of defenses around Europe, but the Brazilian opted to leave the Camp Nou to join Paris-Saint Germain in the summer of 2017.

It was a move that hurt both the player and the club. Barcelona failed to replace the Brazilian, while Neymar’s time at the Ligue 1 side cannot be called a success so far, even though he has scored 72 goals from 89 games in all competitions. The former Barcelona star has shown flashes of brilliance but has thus far been unable to spearhead the Parisian side to the UEFA Champions League.

There have been talks of a return to Camp Nou, with both the player and his mentor Messi eager for a reunion. However, that has not materialized so far. And with the Brazilian close to signing a new deal with PSG, it now appears that Barcelona are ready to close the Neymar chapter for good and move on.

Barcelona will face stiff competition for Traore’s signature

Traore is open to a return to the Camp Nou
Traore is open to a return to the Camp Nou

With Neymar’s move to Barcelona highly unlikely, Barcelona have set their sights on a former player who left for greener pastures in the summer of 2015. Traore rose through the fabled Blaugrana youth system, joining the club as an eight-year-old. His first appearance for the Barcelona first team was as a substitute, replacing Neymar during a 4-0 win against Granada in the 2013/14 season.

However, he managed just four appearances over two years as a teenager and scored just one goal for the club, as he ultimately moved to Aston Villa in the summer of 2015 in search of regular football.

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The Spaniard subsequently secured a move to Middlesbrough, but made a name for himself in the colors of Wolverhampton Wanderers in the past couple of seasons. And even though a return of seven goals from 97 games for the Wolves is not comparable to the unbelievable exploits of Messi, Barcelona are convinced that Traore has the capacity to come good for the Catalans. However, securing his signature might not be a cakewalk for the Spanish giants.

For starters, the Premier League side value their prized asset at €100m, which might pose as a deal-breaker for Barcelona. The Blaugrana also face stiff competition for Traore’s services from Liverpool and Manchester City, who are both keeping a close eye on the Spaniard.

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There are rumors that Messi might be preparing for a reunion with Pep Guardiola at City next season, as the Argentine looks to reunite with the former Blaugrana manager. With Neymar no longer a viable option, perhaps the Spaniard is Barcelona’s best bet at the moment.

Traore is reportedly open to a move back to the club where he started his career and recently stated that the decision is not in his hands. The fact that the 24-year-old enjoys a good rapport with Barcelona prodigy Ansu Fati, as well as other Spaniards at Camp Nou, might work in favor of the Spanish giants.

However, it remains to be seen if Barcelona win the race to secure his signature next summer.


Published 26 Oct 2020, 23:58 IST
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