Reports in the Spanish press claim Barcelona will challenge Manchester United for the signature of Atletico Madrid superstar Koke, as the North-West club look to rebuild under new manager Louis van Gaal.
101 Great Goals translates a report from Spanish daily Sport, which says United's proposed record move of €60 million will face competition from the Catalan giants, who are also in a state of transition and looking to sign fresh talent.
However, according to the story, Barca wish to land the 22-year-old for as little as €30 million, which is some way short of his alleged release clause.
The player himself recently said he would be happy to end his career at the new La Liga champions, per Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC:
I could stay here my whole career. I have a long contract at the moment, and I want to see it out as Atletico is my home. We are putting together a great side, the project is very attractive, and I hope I can stay here for many years.
But these words will not stop United pressing ahead with a huge offer for the player, as reported by Jamie Anderson of the Daily Star.
Barca need to plan for a future without their midfield leader Xavi as the player enters the latter years of his career at the Camp Nou.
Spanish football writer Jaime Collazos spoke recently about Koke succeeding Xavi for both club and country.
He said, via his Sony blog:
The man [Xavi] who has played as big a part in Barcelona’s famous era as anyone, though, is on the bench, and all eyes are on another No. 6. As Martino and Barca attempted to claim the league title without Xavi, Atletico’s star was Koke, who has evolved and improved perhaps more than any other Spanish footballer over the course of the season.
Koke has been pivotal to Atletico's success this season in winning the Spanish title and getting to the Champions League final.
The 22-year-old provided a magnificent 15 assists in the league and Europe during the campaign, per WhoScored.com, proving himself to be one of world football's most promising talents.
However, it is questionable whether the player is in the price bracket of £48 million, the figure Anderson writes United are willing to pay. He is a creatively reliable player but the price appears to be steep.
United will have a war chest of cash to spend this summer but funds will not be unlimited. Koke would represent a huge investment for a club who previously have not parted with this amount of money for one individual.
Koke has mainly featured for Atletico in the wider midfield position, but you can see he may develop into a more central entity.
But to replace a player as brilliant as Xavi would be a huge ask, as well as being tasked to solve the huge midfield problems of a club like United.
Koke might find that staying at Atletico for another season is the shrewd option. At his age he still has a lot of learning to do, and the Calderon Stadium is the correct place to do this with the club's amazing record of player development.