Barcelona have their sights set on snapping up a young central defender of world-class quality this summer, and latest reports have indicated John Stones, Aymeric Laporte and Marquinhos have all made their shortlist.
ESPN FC's Philip Costa cited the Mirror's Ed Malyon, who claimed the Blaugrana have given up in their hunt to sign Juventus star Paul Pogba and will instead concentrate on strengthening their defence.
Maylon's report claimed it was understood Barca had an "outlined agreement" that would have allowed them to sign Pogba in a deal worth somewhere in the region of £85 million, the same fee Real Madrid paid Tottenham Hotspur to sign Gareth Bale in 2013.
However, the same report said that sporting director Robert Fernandez has apparently decided the defence is in more desperate need of restructuring as Barca look to add some youth to their back-line ranks.
Of the three, Athletic Bilbao's Laporte may be the easiest to acquire, considering he's already based in Spain, whereas Paris Saint-Germain's Marquinhos and Stones of Everton may prove more difficult to prise away.
However, Manchester United are likely to run Barca close in any race for Athletic's 21-year-old star as Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News claimed the Red Devils have long scouted his talents:
Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst
#mufc have scouted Laporte for the best part of the last two years. Only became a Jorge Mendes client last season, though.2/9/2016, 3:11:24 PM
It's uncommon for English players to move away from their native setting, particularly young players creating quite as much of a stir as Stones has in the past year.
Manchester United and Chelsea have been fervently linked with the youngster in the past, but the Guardian's Dominic Fifield told BT Sport that Pep Guardiola will land the defender when he takes over at Manchester City this summer:
BT Sport Football @btsportfootball
"John Stones feels like a shoo-in!" @domfifield says the @Everton defender would be perfect for Guardiola's @MCFC. https://t.co/hGwoaAZpVz2/14/2016, 3:15:05 PM
Barcelona would also be reviving previous transfer links of their own if they were to move for PSG starlet Marquinhos, who has started just 11 times in Ligue 1 this season.
Brazilian compatriots David Luiz and Thiago Silva sit ahead of the 21-year-old in Laurent Blanc's pecking order, and Bleacher Report's Andrew Gibney quoted the player, who recently hinted that competition could lead to an exit:
Andrew Gibney @Gibney_A
Quotes from #PSG's Marquinhos this morning suggest the former #MUFC target is running out of patience at the Parisians.1/3/2016, 11:05:11 AM
The Blaugrana could also look to strengthen their defence with the acquisition of teenage Milan sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma, but the Rossoneri are hoping a five-year contract offer will keep their youngster around.
That's according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, which added that the offer is ready for the 16-year-old, although it won't begin until he turns 18 in February 2017 (h/t Football Italia).
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